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Being a Lone Ranger

Being a Lone Ranger


Suppose you have a problem with the IRS or a State tax agency, and you have decided to handle the matter yourself. (Really?) This is usually not a good idea because the IRS and State tax agencies generally have more respect for appeals that are submitted by professionals. And, of course, as a layperson, you probably do not have the professional knowledge to adequately address the issues. If, however, you do choose to represent yourself, here are some pointers.

First, make sure that what you submit is well written. If you are not a good writer, enlist the help of someone who is. This is extremely important in terms of making a good impression

Second, lay out the facts in a clear and concise manner.

Third, gain an understanding of the hierarchy of tax law: decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court control, decisions of the U.S. Courts of Appeals are next, decisions of the U.S. tax Court come next, etc. Remember your interpretation of a Statute is not what matters; it is how the Courts have applied it. Do not use IRS publications as a quoted source because they are not considered legally binding upon the Service; they are for informational purposes only. You are going to have to learn what revenue proclamations, revenue rulings, letter rulings, taxpayer advice memorandums, and a host of other tax law sources mean. You are also going to have to learn the interplay between them.

Fourth, provide written supporting documents. Let’s assume that the Internal Revenue Service is holding you liable for taxes jointly owed by you and a former spouse because you filed a joint tax return, and you are claiming innocent spouse status. This means that you filed a joint return, and signed it, but your former spouse controlled all financial matters during the course of the marriage and you lack knowledge of what your spouse did. What documents would support your position? Some of them might include evidence that your prior spouse has a graduate school degree, while you have only a high school education. Perhaps you did not live with your prior spouse during the period that the tax liability arose, and your prior spouse forged your signature to the tax return. The written documents provided should support the facts presented and your analysis of the tax law.

Good luck!

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