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Taxpayer Assistance

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The purpose of this page is to inform you, the taxpayer, of your rights under the Tempe Tax Code. These laws have been adopted by the City Council to promote fairness, confidentiality, and consistency in the application of the privilege (sales) tax laws. In case of any omission on this page or any inconsistency with the tax laws, the language of the Tempe Tax Code will prevail.

General Rights As A Taxpayer
  • You will always be treated fairly and with courtesy by our employees. 
  • Financial information will be kept confidential.
  • Financial information will be kept confidential.
    Whether you contact the tax office in person, by letter, or by telephone, your questions will be answered promptly and accurately.
  • Employees are not evaluated by the amount of taxes they collect or assess. (Sec. 16-517)
  • Refund requests will be promptly reviewed and issued.
  • Any interviews relating to an audit or a deficiency in payment of any tax will be conducted at your place of business or at our office, and will be held at a reasonable time. During the interview, you will be given information about your rights, the audit, how an audit can be amended, and appeal procedures regarding any amount you might owe.
  • If we have sent you an assessment (the official notice of the amount of tax we have determined you owe) for any particular tax period, that assessment cannot be increased except in specific limited circumstances. Once the tax office completes an audit and a tax deficiency has been determined, your liability for that particular tax for the period included in the audit is fixed, and no additional audit may be conducted, except under specific limited circumstances. (Sec. 16-556)

Reliance On Written Information (Sec. 16-541)

Although the tax office is confident that the oral responses given by its employees to taxpayer questions are correct, the City is not bound by that oral advice. We encourage you to put your questions in writing, and we will answer you in writing. This will reduce the chances of misunderstanding. If you underpay your tax as a direct result of following the written advice we have given you, an instruction on a tax report form, or a tax office tax ruling, you will not have to pay interest or penalties on that tax.

Private Taxpayer Rulings (Sec. 16-597)

To obtain a more formal answer to a specific tax question, you may make a written request for a private taxpayer ruling. If you underpaid your taxes because you relied on this ruling, you will not have to pay any additional tax, interest or penalty, unless you did not provide adequate or accurate information upon which the ruling was based. The ruling only applies to taxes that become due after the ruling has been given and only to the taxpayer who has requested the ruling. Rulings may be canceled by the tax office with a written notice or because of a change in law. Thirty days after they are issued, private taxpayer rulings are made available to the public for inspection and copying. Any confidential information, such as the taxpayer's identity, will be removed before the ruling is made available to the public.

Abatement Of Penalties (Sec. 16-540)

If you believe you should not have to pay a penalty that has been assessed, you may make a written request stating the reasons why you believe it should be abated. The penalty will be forgiven if your conduct, or lack of conduct, that led to the penalty was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect. Reasonable cause includes situations in which you had a reasonable basis to believe that the tax did not apply to the business activity.

Installment Payments (Sec. 16-596)

If you owe taxes, you may ask for an installment plan to pay them. You may be asked to provide a financial report to show that you are not able to pay the taxes all at once. If your request to pay in installments is denied you have the right to petition the Taxpayer Problem Resolution Officer to review the decision. The Taxpayer Problem Resolution Officer has the authority to change the tax office's decision.

Expedited Review Of Jeopardy Assessments (Sec. 16-572)

Within thirty days of the date a jeopardy assessment is filed against you, you may ask for an expedited review to determine if the jeopardy assessment is reasonable. The tax office will respond to your request and issue a decision within fifteen days. If the tax office rules in favor of the jeopardy assessment, you have thirty days in which to file a civil action against the tax office in Tax Court. The Tax Court will then determine if the tax office acted reasonably in filing the jeopardy assessment. 

Appeals Process 

Administrative Review (Sec. 16-570)

If you disagree with the findings of an audit, you may discuss your concerns with the auditor or the auditor's supervisor. You also have the right to file a written protest requesting a hearing, correction, or redetermination of a proposed audit assessment. A protest must be made within forty-five days from the date you receive the assessment.

Judicial Review (Sec. 16-575)

If you request a tax hearing and disagree with the hearing officer's decision, you may seek judicial review of all or any part of the hearing officer's decision by initiating an action against the City in the appropriate Court of this county. You are not required to pay any protested tax, penalty, or interest upheld by the hearing officer before seeking such judicial review.

Reimbursement Of Fees (Sec. 16-578)

If you win a hearing officer's decision, you may be reimbursed for the reasonable fees and costs of presenting your case, if the tax office's position was not substantially justified. You must first, within thirty days after receipt of a refund or recalculated assessment, give the Taxpayer Problem Resolution Officer a detailed list of the fees or costs incurred; the Taxpayer Problem Resolution Officer will then determine, within thirty days, whether to grant your request for reimbursement. Reimbursement of fees and costs may not exceed $20,000 or the actual amount of money spent, whichever is less. Reimbursement of costs and fees only affects expenses incurred after December 31, 1996.

Taxpayer Problem Resolution Officer (Sec. 16-515)

The City of Tempe has established a Taxpayer Problem Resolution Officer to assist taxpayers in the following ways:

  • Provide service to taxpayers whose problems have not been resolved through normal channels. 
  • Obtain information on audits, corrections and appeal procedures of the tax office.
  • Negotiate with tax office personnel to resolve complex and sensitive taxpayer problems.
  • Stop or prohibit the tax office from taking action against a taxpayer, while reviewing the action.
  • Identify policies and practices that do not allow for the fair and equitable treatment of taxpayers and recommend alternatives to the City Manager.
  • Represent taxpayers' interests in meetings formulating the tax office's policies and procedures.
  • Receive and evaluate complaints about employees of the tax office, and make recommendations to the City Manager for appropriate corrective action.
  • Compile data on the number and type of taxpayer complaints and evaluate the actions taken by the tax office to resolve those complaints.
  • Survey taxpayers each year to obtain their evaluation of the quality of service provided by the tax office.
  • Action taken by the Taxpayer Problem Resolution Officer may be reviewed and/or modified by the City Manager.

Taxpayer Assistance Orders (Sec. 16-516)
The Taxpayer Problem Resolution Officer, with or without a formal written request from a taxpayer, may issue a Taxpayer Assistance Order that suspends or stays an action or proposed action by the tax office if the Taxpayer Problem Resolution Officer determines that a taxpayer is suffering or will suffer a significant hardship due to the manner in which the tax office is administering the tax laws.

A Taxpayer Assistance Order may require the tax office to release a lien perfected under the tax code, or cease other actions to enforce the tax code pending resolution of the issue giving rise to the Taxpayer Assistance Order.

The Taxpayer Assistance Order is binding on the tax office until it is reversed or rescinded by the Taxpayer Problem Resolution Officer or the City Manager.

Interest that would otherwise accrue on an outstanding tax obligation is not affected by an issuance of a Taxpayer Assistance Order and will continue to accumulate.

A Taxpayer Assistance Order may not be used to question the merits of a tax owed or as a substitute for any protest actions, such as appeals.