What is the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR)?

Updated: February 22, 2012 at 11:31 pm PST

Most people become frustrated with paying taxes at one point or another in their lifetimes. Most people also express dislike for the Internal Revenue System (IRS). Have you ever wondered who’s controlling how the government makes people pay taxes? Well, others had this idea and came up with the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR).

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) is a concept created by conservative and libertarian groups wanting to limit the growth of government. TABOR also seeks to monitor the actions of the IRS. TABOR was created after years of complaints from taxpayers about how the IRS was abusing its power. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights ensures that increases in tax revenue must be reasonable and related to increases in population and inflation. Probably the most famous case of TABOR legislation came out of Colorado in 1992.

In 1992, voters in Colorado approved an amendment to the Colorado Constitution that controls revenue for all levels of government. Under TABOR, governments cannot raise tax rates without people voting for approval. The government also cannot spend revenue from tax rates if they grow faster than the rate of population and inflation growth. If revenue exceeds this limit, it must be refunded to taxpayers. With TABOR, the state has given more than $2 billion back to taxpayers in Colorado.

Other states have put similar rights in place. For example, the North Carolina Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights includes:

- Protection of Privacy
- Examinations
- Representation
- Penalties and Interest
- Request for Review
- Final Determination after Departmental Review
- Hearings
- Collections
- Refund of Overpaid Tax
- Taxpayer Assistance

There are both advocates and opponents to TABOR. Advocates see what happened in Colorado as a positive experience. They describe how Colorado’s economic growth has exceeded the U.S.’s growth as a whole since the creation of TABOR. They also agree that letting taxpayers deal more directly with tax increases is more democratic.

Opponents to TABOR have arguments as well. They say that Colorado ranks 48th in the U.S. for higher education funding, which has dropped considerably since 1992. They claim that Colorado ranks 44th in what it spends on repairing roads because of TABOR. Finally, they don’t think TABOR is as “democratic” as its supporters assert.