Section 11-51-186

Taxpayer rights; responsibilities of municipality; abatement of penalty.

(a) Rights of the taxpayer.

(1) At or before the commencement of an examination of the books and records of a taxpayer, the taxing jurisdiction shall provide to the taxpayer a written description, in simple and non-technical terms, of the role of the taxing jurisdiction and the taxpayer during the examination and a statement of the taxpayer's rights.

(2) At or before the issuance of a preliminary assessment, the taxing jurisdiction shall provide to the taxpayer in simple and non-technical terms:

a. A written description of the basis for the assessment and any penalty asserted with respect to the assessment.

b. A written description of the method by which the taxpayer may request an administrative review of the preliminary assessment.

(3) At or before the issuance of a final assessment, the taxing jurisdiction shall inform the taxpayer by a written statement of his or her right to appeal to the circuit court.

(4) Except in cases involving suspected criminal violations of the tax law or other criminal activity, the taxing jurisdiction shall conduct an examination of a taxpayer during regular business hours after providing reasonable notice to the taxpayer. A taxpayer who refuses a proposed time for an examination on the grounds that the proposed examination would cause inconvenience or hardship must offer reasonable alternative times and dates for the examination.

(5) At all stages of an examination or the administrative review of the examination, a taxpayer is entitled to be assisted or represented, at his or her own expense, by an authorized representative. The taxing jurisdiction shall prescribe a form by which the taxpayer may designate such a person to represent him or her in the conduct of any proceedings, including collection proceedings, resulting from actions of the taxing jurisdiction. In the absence of this form, the taxing jurisdiction may accept such other evidence that a person is the authorized representative of a taxpayer as it considers appropriate. This provision shall not be construed as authorizing the practice of law.

(6) A taxpayer shall be allowed to make an audio recording of any in-person interview with any officer or employee of the taxing jurisdiction relating to any examination or investigation by the taxing jurisdiction, provided, however, the taxpayer must give reasonable advance notice to the taxing jurisdiction of his or her intent to record and the recording shall be at the taxpayer's own expense and with the taxpayer's own equipment. The taxing jurisdiction shall also be allowed to record any interview if the taxpayer is recording the interview, or if the taxing jurisdiction gives the taxpayer reasonable advance notice of its intent to record the interview. The taxing jurisdiction shall provide the taxpayer with a copy of the recording, but only if the taxpayer provides reimbursement for the cost of the transcript and reproduction of such copy. Such cost shall be reasonable as prescribed by the taxing jurisdiction.

(7) This section shall not apply to criminal investigations or investigations relating to the integrity of any officer or employee of the taxing jurisdiction.

(8) Any designee of a municipality shall be subject to the same responsibilities and restrictions on its authority, and the ability of its employees and contractors, to act on behalf of a taxing jurisdiction under this chapter as are imposed on them under the provisions of this chapter and Sections 40-2A-12 to 40-2A-14, inclusive.

(b) Municipality's responsibilities, generally. In addition to compliance with subsection (a), municipalities shall make accessible continuing education programs to train non-clerical employees of their revenue departments to provide them with a current knowledge of applicable state and local tax laws. Employees of a municipality who are subject to the preceding sentence may, in order to satisfy the continuing education requirements, attend courses pertaining in whole or in part to the municipal business license laws and related issues that are presented, sponsored, or certified by the Alabama Municipal Revenue Officers Association or by the Alabama Local Tax Institute of Standards and Training established pursuant to Section 40-2A-15. In addition, a municipality shall not use the amounts of taxes assessed by an employee of the municipality as the basis of a production quota system for employees, or as a basis for evaluating an employee's or a designee's performance.

(c) Municipality's failure to comply with this section. The failure of a municipality or its designee to comply with any provision of subsections (a) or (b) shall not prohibit the municipality from assessing any business license tax otherwise due under this chapter, nor excuse the taxpayer from timely complying with any time limitations under this chapter. However, if the municipality or its designee fails to substantially comply with the provisions of this section, the governing body of the municipality, its license officer, or another employee designated by the governing body shall, upon written application by the taxpayer or upon good cause shown, abate any penalties and waive any interest otherwise arising from the examination or assessment.

(d) Abatement of penalty. The municipality shall abate any penalty attributable to erroneous written advice furnished to a taxpayer or taxpayer's representative by an employee or agent of the municipality's revenue department or of its designee. However, this subsection shall apply only if: The employee or agent of the revenue department or the designee provided the written advice in good faith while acting in his or her official capacity; the written advice was reasonably relied on by the taxpayer, or by the taxpayer's representative in advising the taxpayer, and was in response to a specific written request of the taxpayer or the taxpayer's representative; and the penalty did not result from the taxpayer's or the representative's failure to provide complete and accurate information or from a change in law or a new judicial interpretation of existing law. References in this subsection to written advice or requests shall mean and include those transmitted via electronic mail.

(Act 2006-586, p. 1548, §3.)