Congress Adopts the “Taxpayer Bill of Rights”... But Did We Actually Gain Anything?

Americans should be familiar with the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights contained therein, particularly as those rights have been in the forefront of media and public attention.  But did you know that American taxpayers have “fundamental rights” with respect to their dealings with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)? In mid-June 2014, heeding the insistence by National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) Nina E. Olson, the IRS unveiled the “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” (TBOR)[1], which hopefully could “serve as a blueprint for future dealings” with the IRS.[2]  “The TBOR,” according to the IRS, “takes the multiple existing rights embedded in the tax code and groups them into 10 categories, making them easier to find, understand and use.”[3]

At that time, Olson stated: “Congress has passed multiple pieces of legislation with the title of 'Taxpayer Bill of Rights.… However, taxpayer surveys conducted by my office have found that most taxpayers do not believe they have rights before the IRS and even fewer can name their rights. I believe the list of core taxpayer rights the IRS is announcing today will help taxpayers better understand their rights in dealing with the tax system."[4]

Simply put, while the unveiling of the TBOR may make such “rights” more accessible for taxpayers, it did not give taxpayers any new rights and, unfortunately, was not even legally enforceable.[5]

Let’s fast-forward—a few months ago in late 2015, Congress incorporated the 10 rights contained in the TBOR into the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), and “IRC section 7803(a)(3) now requires the IRS Commissioner to ensure that IRS employees are familiar with and act in accordance with the 10 fundamental rights that make up the TBOR.”[6]  Have taxpayers now gained something?

Well, while the IRS “hopes to increase the number of Americans who know and understand their rights under the tax law”, the real impact of this Congressional adoption of the “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” and what such rights truly mean to American taxpayers dealing with the IRS seems elusive.  Notably, when the release of the TBOR was announced in June 2014, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen admitted that these rights “have long existed in the Tax Code but are very hard to find.”[7]  So, alas, the answer appears to be “no.”

( For more information regarding what these 10 rights mean for you as a taxpayer, read here.[8] )


by Keobopha Keopong, Esq., Barnes Law

Keo Keopong is an associate attorney with Barnes Law, licensed to practice law in California.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

[1] IR-2014-72, 6/10/14;;




[5] Id.



[8] [Click “Learn what this means for you.”]