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IRS website is not legal authority

It is difficult to know who to turn to when questions regarding taxes arise. Unfortunately, even employees of the IRS provide incorrect advice when it comes to taxes. And this potentially ends up creating difficulties for taxpayers.

The IRS created a website (www.IRS.gov) providing users answers to a number of tax questions. But while such information can provide a number of helpful tips to taxpayers, a recent agency memorandum (SBSE-04-0517-0030) warns about relying upon this database. This memo stresses that information on this website not also contained in the Internal Revenue Bulletin (IRB) should not be considered legal authority.

The mere existence of a website created by the IRS that taxpayers cannot rely upon for authority could lead to more than just confusion. Incorrect information when filing tax returns could lead to an audit. And though using the IRS website as authority is certainly not the only reason that taxpayers face audits, any audit brings along its own set of complications.

Facing an audit could ultimately result in criminal charges and other penalties. The IRS will ask for you to supply a tremendous amount of documentation, and may only provide a limited amount of time to comply with their request.

It goes without saying that tax law is complex. Tax regulations consume volumes, and most individuals would not know where to turn to crosscheck information on the website with that contained in the IRB. For this reason, it would be difficult to determine whether information on the website is reliable.

It is highly recommended that Michigan taxpayers contact an experienced tax attorney in the event of confusion. Besides providing guidance, a tax attorney can also provide representation at the tax audit itself.

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