While thousands of Americans anticipate a tax refund check from the IRS and state tax authorities, thousands more unfortunately get served with a different letter that will drastically change their lives for the worse. These letters can be explicit reminders of all the enforcement power tax authorities can wield: audits, wage garnishment, penalties, prison. The sad truth is that when it comes to tax law, most Americans are presumed guilty unless proven innocent. Before even having a chance to prove their innocence, many agencies require taxpayers to pay what they owe and face unique procedural obstacles and ever-changing guidelines. That’s why far too many taxpayers are reluctant to assert their rights.
This is where NTUF comes in. Although these injustices are rampant, they do reveal underused opportunities for taxpayers to defend themselves via the legal system. NTUF has long engaged with our on-the-ground outreach, deep bench of policy expertise, and impactful media relations capabilities. But some problems are so systemic that they require more than executive and legislative outreach. They require a strategic public interest litigation program that will hold tax agencies accountable by pursuing cases to change the law for the better.
NTUF has launched the new Taxpayer Defense Center (TDC) to protect taxpayers’ rights and limit government overreach. The TDC will litigate strategically in defense of taxpayers in three key areas initially, to win cases in the court of law and in the court of public opinion:
- Fighting Unconstitutional Burdens on Interstate Commerce. State legislators have every incentive to shift their tax burden to non-resident non-voters, and do it quite often. Using our expertise and diverse network of partners, we will find the right legal avenues to test and strengthen the limits of state taxing powers.
- Defending Taxpayers from Administrative Abuses. The Treasury Department and the IRS should not be allowed to hide behind bad-faith non-compliance with the notice-and-comment requirements and basic due process. Judicial checks will defend taxpayers from these agencies’ regulatory might. We will seek to impact individual cases that have implications for laws that should protect the rights of thousands or millions of taxpayers.
- Preventing Retroactive and Discriminatory Taxes. Retroactively imposing taxes is unfortunately a common practice. We propose to combine strategic legal engagement with outreach strategies to increase public awareness of the inherent unfairness of retroactive taxation. We will identify appropriate legal venues to draw the line against arbitrary exercises of tax powers.
After more than 15 years working in the policy and legal communities, I’ve joined NTUF to help lead the Taxpayer Defense Center because legal threats to taxpayer rights are too important to ignore. While it won’t be an easy task, we are prepared to take on the risks and challenges necessary to advance the defense of taxpayers’ rights. With NTUF’s Taxpayer Defense Center, we can provide taxpayers with the vigorous legal defense they need to protect themselves from overzealous, unfair tax administration.