The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has enormous power over taxpayers. It can demand payment for taxes, and the punishments for nonpayment can be severe. The IRS can assess financial penalties (e.g., fines and interest) for underpayment, while, in serious cases, the IRS can pursue taxpayers for criminal violations. Therefore, to protect taxpayers from unfair tax enforcement, the IRS has established a “Taxpayer Bill of Rights,” the ninth of which includes the “Right to Representation.”
What's referred to as “Taxpayer Bill of Rights 9” is similar to the right of legal representation enshrined in the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. The taxpayer right provides that when a taxpayer must interact with the IRS, they don't have to go it alone. Instead, they can be represented by a qualified expert—an attorney, a certified public accountant, or an enrolled agent.
In practice, the taxpayer's right to representation is very consistent with the Constitutional right to counsel in criminal matters. For example, just as during a criminal investigation, someone who cannot afford representation can ask the IRS for someone to provide assistance. And if someone asks for a legal representative during an IRS meeting, the IRS must usually stop the meeting—just as police should end an interview.
The right to representation also means the reverse scenario is true. This means that most of the time, your attorney can represent you, and you don't have to engage with the IRS directly.
In most situations, your representative can handle all direct communications with the IRS. There are rare exceptions, but in those instances, the IRS has to follow a special protocol to require you to appear, and you can still have your representative with you.
While it's important to know that you have rights when dealing with the IRS, ultimately, what matters more is if you exercise these rights—such as going in with a lawyer. If you need help, call Senior Partner, Tax Controversy Attorney, and former IRS attorney Brandon A. Keim at (602) 200-7399 or contact him online to discuss your options.