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thority, or where, even if not a blank of the kind required to be kept, the blank itself is simulated or falsely or fraudulently executed and issued by a person who has no power or authority to do so..... (T. D. 2874, June 23, 1919.)
The author is informed that some taxpayers have not received receipts although specific requests were made for them, and that such failure has caused great inconvenience when taxpayers have gone abroad. Moreover, receipts should be available when taxpayers file claims for refund.
APPEALS, REFUNDS AND ABATEMENTS OF
The preceding chapter deals with the administrative procedure in connection. with assessments and payments of taxes admitted by the taxpayer to be properly imposed. This chapter deals with the remedial procedure provided by the Treasury or the courts whereby the taxpayer may question the assessment and either secure a cancellation of the assessment or obtain a refund of taxes overpaid.
The now extinct Advisory Board' was supposed to afford i elief or satisfaction in doubtful cases-relief in the form of abatement or non-assessment of the tax when the taxpayer was right and the government was wrong, and satisfaction to the taxpayer in those cases when the government was right and the taxpayer was wrong. It is obvious that the word “satisfaction” is used in the sense that while a taxpayer may dislike to pay any heavy tax yet he generally is entirely satisfied to pay a tax which he believes is equitably assessed. And if he is advised by such a body of men as comprised the Advisory Board that he is not discriminated against, the average taxpayer would not appeal to the courts.
It is somewhat disquieting to hear that the work of the Advisory Board was not a success. Recently the author discussed a certain case with two revenue agents. One said (and the other concurred): “We have found in many cases that the Advisory Board was wrong in its decisions.” The inference from the occasion and manner in which the statement was made is that when the Advisory Board decided in favor of the government it was right, but when it decided in favor of the taxpayer it was wrong!
'See page 159.
The author does not believe that the Commissioner would approve such statements, but unfortunately the Commissioner cannot attend personally to the entire administration of the law.
The author is hopeful that the new Committee of Review and Appeal? will, to a great extent, follow the procedure of the Advisory Board. At the present time, however, the Treasury is acting on the theory that additional assessments should be made as soon as possible, usually upon the recommendation of the audit section, in order that interest will commence to accrue to the government. If the government would pay interest on taxes illegally collected this procedure would meet with little criticism. Most taxpayers who feel that their original returns were correct urge that their claims should be heard and decided before interest at the rate of 6 per cent or 12 per cent commences to run against them.
The preceding chapter fully covers appeals from the findings of revenue agents, and in general all remedial measures up to the time of assessment. After an assessment has once been entered on the collectors' lists there is no recourse except by a claim for abatement (before the tax is paid) or refund (after the tax is paid).
Many of the additional assessments following examinations of taxpayers' returns are based upon erroneous conclusions drawn by examiners, which the courts would promptly reverse if the taxpayers brought suit. But suits at law are so expensive, or are thought to be, and delays and postponements are so frequent and annoying, that most of those reassessed pay even when they are sure of the injustice of the tax.
Because of the many erroneous assessments which have been made, taxpayers should be informed as to the details of steps to be taken to question an assessment, and, if a claim is refused, the necessary procedure to secure from the courts
See page 161.
an impartial opinion as to the sufficiency of the taxpayer's side of the contention. Until the case reaches the courts it cannot always be said that the facts are passed upon impartially."
Many of the inequalities which existed under past practice were due to the thought on the part of those administering the law that there was no middle ground. Any doubtful point, no matter how great an injustice it might work, was decided against the taxpayer.
It is probable that many court decisions will be required before the rights of taxpayers are fully protected. In the meantime, all legal formalities should be observed by taxpayers so that they may secure the benefit of any future decisions which reverse past rulings of the Treasury.
Taxpayer's right to question assessment.–Vast numbers of persons pay too much tax for a variety of reasons: ignorance; the desire to overpay rather than to underpay; the tendency to follow Treasury rulings even though obviously illegal; fear of penalties; fear that failure to pay will be called unpatriotic; and many others. In view of the fact that in a democracy the people are supposed to be sovereign and public officers their servants, this tendency is hard to understand. It probably results from the disinclination of the average well-to-do American to go to any trouble about overcharges of any kind. He will pay a cab driver an extortionate fare rather than question the rate. He will tip an insolent and inefficient waiter rather than be looked at unkindly or spoken to offensively.
It is so with taxes. But there should be a change. Public officers, at least those in Washington, are not to blame. An effort has been made to render the remedy of an aggrieved taxpayer as inexpensive and as little troublesome as possible. Taxpayers who refuse to acquaint themselves with the remedies and means for correcting erroneous assessments have only themselves to blame.
*For appeals to the Committee of Review and Appeal, see page 163.
Right TO QUESTION TREASURY RULINGS.—Regarding the taxpayer's right to question rulings and assessments, the following authoritative quotation is pertinent:
And it follows that it will be a legitimate mode of construing the present income tax law, in cases where its language in relation to a particular point or subject is obscure, confusing, or unintelligible, to compare it with the corresponding provisions on the same point in the earlier acts, which may be more clear and precise, and to presume that Congress intended its words to be understood in the same sense as before, unless there is such a distinct change of language as to compel the inference that a change in legislation was certainly intended. (Black, Income Taxes, 4th edition, page 36.)
Also these quotations from decisions of the United States Supreme Court are of interest. The first quotation is repeated yerbatim from Gould v. Gould :5
It is .... a general rule, in the interpretation of all statutes levying taxes or duties upon subjects or citizens, not to extend their provisions by implication beyond the clear import of the language used, or to enlarge their operation so as to embrace matters not specifically pointed out, although standing upon a close analogy. In every case, therefore, of doubt, such statutes are construed most strongly against the government, and in favor of the subjects or citizens, because burdens are not to be imposed, nor presumed to be imposed, beyond what the statutes expressly and clearly import. (United States v. Wigglesworth, 2 Story, 369; American Net and Twine Co. v. Worthington, 141 U. S. 468; Benziger v. U. S., 192 U. S. 38.)
Keeping in mind the well-settled rule, that the citizen is exempt from taxation, unless the same is imposed by clear and unequivocal language, and that, where the construction of a tax is doubtful, the doubt is to be resolved in favor of those upon whom the tax is sought to be laid. .... (Spreckels Sugar Co. v. McClain, 192 U. S. 397.)
Taxpayers should inform themselves as to the attitude of the courts on doubtful points which arise in the course of the administration of the law as indicated by the foregoing quotations and by the following clear-cut statement.
Decision. At the outset it may be remarked that a statute providing for the imposition of taxes is to be strictly construed, and all reasonable doubts in respect thereto resolved against the govern
€245 U. S. 151.