It is one thing to say that no one ever wants to really have personal dealings with the IRS. Most of us send in our tax returns every year with the hope to never hear about them again. After all, if you do hear from the IRS after that point, it is not because they were so impressed with your organizational skills that they want to refund some more money.
If you do hear from the IRS, however, and are sure that your taxes were correctly handled, at least you won’t have to worry THAT much and can have confidence that things will be decided in your favor. There is still the aggravation of jumping through the hoops until it has been handled, though. Not only that, but with recent and seemingly ever-increasing funding cuts for the IRS, it is more difficult than ever to actually talk to an actual person at the IRS to get the situation handled.
One would then think that going to irs.gov would make sense as a way to personally find your way through their maze. After all, getting information from the same organization would actually cut down on the work they have to do if it is up to date and accurate, right? The IRS must love if someone does this to get information and makes its job easier, no?
I clearly have had many dealings with the IRS, and I can say that it is an EXTREMELY rare case when it happens smoothly. It is difficult to actually talk to someone, and even then it is no guarantee that the person you talk to will have the knowledge necessary to help move the process along. Even with that experience, though, I had to shake my head through this recent article by Forbes.com’s Robert W. Wood.
In that article, Wood states that there was a recent memo sent to the IRS Field Examination Area Directors telling them the FAQs and other items posted on IRS.gov are not legal authority unless they also appear in the Internal Revenue Bulletin. Now I can’t disagree with the idea that the IRS should have a collection of official rules and regulations, but why would it publicly print something, under its own name, that does not hold the weight of authority?
If you have any answer to this that makes sense, I would love to hear it for crafting one is completely evading me.
And even if you can come up with a real reason, this is unfair. It is not a policy that I am saying is being misused, but it is clearly one that could be misused. Any authority that says it has the real rules and its public statements do not necessarily follow them comes off as potentially tyrannical. Thankfully we have enough checks in this country that the IRS is not doing that, but just what can a taxpayer do to navigate their waters then?
First, and thankfully most of you reading this are already doing this, use a tax professional to handle your taxes. If you want to be sure that you are not going to have serious IRS problems, have someone serious on your side before submitting any information to the IRS. Second, continue using that professional help during any communication with the IRS. You may not know all the answers needed when it comes to handling IRS issues, but some people do.
I can’t claim that this is really fair, but I still pride myself on being more fair and open with my clients than apparently some other organizations.
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