Taxpayer Bill of Rights 6: The Right to Finality

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBOR) is a cornerstone document that highlights the 10 fundamental rights taxpayers have when dealing with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS wants every taxpayer to be aware of these rights in the event they need to work with the IRS on a personal tax matter. The IRS continues to publicly highlight these rights to taxpayers. The IRS also regularly reminds its employees about these rights. The IRS expects employees to understand and apply taxpayer rights throughout every encounter with taxpayers.

IRS Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer, includes a full list of taxpayers’ rights.

It includes The Right to Finality.

Taxpayers have the right to know the maximum amount of time they have to challenge the IRS’s position as well as the maximum amount of time the IRS has to audit a particular tax year or collect a tax debt. Taxpayers have the right to know when the IRS has finished an audit.

What you can expect:

  • The IRS generally has three years from the date you file your return to assess any additional tax for that tax year. There are some limited exceptions to this rule. For example, if you fail to file a return or you file a false or fraudulent return, the IRS has an unlimited amount of time to assess tax for that tax year.

  • The IRS generally has 10 years from the assessment date to collect unpaid taxes from you. The IRS can’t extend this 10-year period unless you agree to extend the period as part of an installment agreement to pay your tax debt or the IRS obtains a court judgment. However, there are some situations where the IRS may suspend the ten-year collection period and resume it later. The IRS may be able to do this if there’s a period when the IRS cannot collect, such as times of bankruptcy or a collection due process proceeding.

  • If you believe you have overpaid your taxes, you can file a refund claim asking for the money back. Generally, you must file a refund claim within three years from the date you filed your original return, or two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.

  • If the IRS sends you a notice proposing additional tax (statutory notice of deficiency), the notice must include the deadline for when you can file a petition with the Tax Court to challenge the amount proposed.

  • To timely challenge a statutory notice of deficiency in Tax Court, you must file your petition within 90 days of the date of the statutory notice (150 days if the taxpayer’s address on the notice is outside the United States or if the taxpayer is out of the country at the time the notice is mailed). If you do not timely file a petition, the IRS will assess the amount proposed in the statutory notice and you will receive a bill.

  • Generally, the IRS can only examine (audit) your tax return once for any given tax year. However, the IRS may reopen a previously examined return if the IRS finds it necessary. For example, if there is evidence of fraud, the IRS can reopen an exam.

To find out more about the TBOR and what it means to you visit the Taxpayer Advocate Service’s website.

By making this important publication available in multiple languages, the IRS hopes to increase the number of Americans who know and understand their rights under the tax law. The IRS has more tax information in other languages too. See the “Languages” menu at the bottom of any page.

The IRS also is committed to protecting taxpayers’ civil rights. The IRS will not tolerate discrimination based on age, color, disability, race, reprisal, national origin, English proficiency, religion, sex, sexual orientation or status as a parent. This includes any contact with IRS employees and the staff or volunteers at community sites.

If a taxpayer faces discrimination, they can send a written complaint PDF to the IRS Civil Rights Division.

Additional IRS Resources

IRS Publication 1