When it comes to assessing and collecting taxes, you have rights. Although I’m sure you do not fully understand what they are, or how broad they may reach, you have them. And they have value. Allow me to explain.
You see, your rights are like tools on your tool belt. You pull one out when you need to accomplish a purpose. In the case of tax assessment or collection, the purpose is convincing the government to accept your tax return filing and all that you claim therein.
When you get a notification letter or a demand letter from IRS or your state Department of Revenue (such as a Notice of Deficiency or Notice of Intent to Levy or some such scary sounding correspondence), that letter oftentimes contains some very common and basic language, such as some form of a deadline. In fact, when you are in tax trouble, almost every communication from IRS or your state Department of Revenue gives you a date by which to comply with whatever demand they are making of you. Unfortunately, most folks read these deadlines and think to themselves something like this:
“Hey, I’m broke. What are they gonna do? Take my <insert ragged old piece of worthless property here>?!?”
And you know what? You are probably correct—they do not want that ragged old piece of worthless property. But…..
It is easy to quit early on. It is overwhelming how much they call and write to you, how quickly the amounts add up. It is so discouraging. Fighting it does not seem viable, giving up seems so easy, like it is your only real option! But DON’T!
Do not give up. Do not waive your rights. Do not miss a deadline. Don’t. I mean it.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to keep every deadline. This is one of the biggest reasons people lose their cases….they missed a deadline of one sort or another. By the time they realize how devastating it was to their case, it is too late. They realized too late that they actually had a winning case, but by missing the deadline, they waived their rights. The right to be heard. The right to review. The right to explain your side of things. The right to negotiate. The right to appeal.
Your rights are valuable. Take a look again at that short list of rights above. How much money do you think it is worth? How much time? Bureaucrats may not place a lot of monetary value on a hearing, but they do know how much time it will consume of their already overwhelmed days. Do you think they would be interested in hearing a reasonable settlement offer if it meant saving X number of hours or days? Getting a hearing not only takes up time for the taxing agency, but it also requires that someone hear your case, and that takes time from another agency as well. Then there is the appeal to a higher court if you lose (or if they lose). That takes time, too. When it comes to a bureaucracy, TIME is money.
But you do not have this leverage if you waive your rights by missing deadlines. By keeping deadlines—by not waiving your rights—you retain leverage. You tell the government, “No, you must prove your position. I will not just lie down and let your assertions and denials become facts.”
Bureaucracies value finality. You value a big payday, they value being able to close a file or move it to someone else’s desk (you’re their problem now!) It does not matter so much to the bureaucracy how that finality is obtained—whether through a negotiated settlement, a decision of a judge or hearings officer, or if you failed to respond in the time allowed (i.e. you missed the deadline), all that matters to them is that your file is now on the conveyor belt away from their desk.
To keep your options open, you simply must comply with the due dates given in those letters, in the rules of the court or tribunal, or in the statutes and administrative rules.
Knowing all the rules and times set out in the rules, the regulations, or statutes can be difficult to decipher. The letters from IRS and the Department of Revenue are often helpful for you, but by no means are they giving you the full picture. Be sure to comply with the time frames given in those letters, but it helps to have counsel and advice from someone who has been dealing with these issues for the last 30 years or so. You would benefit from having someone on your side who not only can decipher complex legalities, but who also understands the numbers (in case you didn’t already know, I’m not just a highly skilled Portland Tax Attorney I’m also a very experienced CPA).
If you face a deadline—or have missed a deadline—do not delay in reaching out to me so I can help you. There may yet be time to rescue your situation (files do not get boxed up at midnight of the last day…) I may be able to fix this for you so that we can find some relief for your situation.