A few years ago, this page helped prod Congress into adopting a taxpayer bill of rights.
We did so because of widespread abuses and blunders on the part of the Internal Revenue Service and in order to give the individual taxpayer more clout in dealing with this powerful agency.Now it's time to start working for the adoption of similar legislation in Utah.
Up to a point, a good case can be made that a taxpayer bill of rights is not needed in Utah because the State Tax Commission has been much more fair and sensitive than the IRS in dealing with taxpayers.
Even so, the proposed state law could help deter any future abuses by Utah tax collectors. And it could help the taxpayers feel better about the overall system of financing state government.
That's why at least 10 states have adopted taxpayer bill of rights acts like the one put on the books in 1988 by Congress. It's also why the Utah Foundation reported recently that state tax collectors around the country, who initially looked on such laws as a hindrance, are coming to recognize them as a decided help.
Consider just a few key provisions of a proposed Utah taxpayer bill of rights. Among other things, it would provide:
- Disclosure of taxpayer rights and obligations and of Tax Commission procedures with respect to appeals, fund claims and collections.
- Reasonable scheduling of audit interviews.
- Right to record audit interviews.
- Explanation of the audit and collection process before the initial interview.
- Right of the taxpayer to be represented by an attorney or other professional.
- Right of the taxpayer to suspend an interview in order to consult with his attorney or other professional.
- At least 30 days notice before property could be seized for delinquent taxes, an appeals process and public acknowledgment by the Tax Commission of any errors regarding its lien against taxpayers.
Though a taxpayer bill of rights along these very lines was introduced in the 1990 Utah Legislature, it got nowhere beyond being referred to an interim committee for further study.
By all means, let's blow any cobwebs off the previous proposal and start prodding the Legislature to do for Utah taxpayers what Congress did for federal taxpayers by spelling out and strengthening their rights.