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Is the IRS coming for you?

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Sandy Botkin
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In November 2019, the IRS announced that, as part of a special compliance effort, its Revenue Officers (ROS), whose job is to collect revenue that is owed, would begin making unannounced visits to taxpayers that have ongoing tax compliance issues. ROs are trained IRS civil enforcement employees who work to resolve compliance issues, such as missing returns or unpaid taxes. (Fact Sheet 2019-15)

The IRS’s primary goal for these unannounced visits is to contact taxpayers that have a previously known tax compliance issue, especially a payroll tax issue, that wasn’t resolved through mail contact. The IRS emphasized that these unannounced visits typically occur after the IRS has made numerous contacts by mail about the existing tax issue. (Fact Sheet 2019-15) See IRS to begin conducting face-to-face meetings with taxpayers who have tax compliance issues (Nov. 19, 2020).

The Tax Tip

So how do you know that you are dealing with a real IRS person and not a scammer? This Tax Tip will provide advice on identifying an RO and what taxpayers should expect from him or her during these visits:

  • The RO should provide two forms of official identification, a pocket commission and a HSPD-12 card. (The HSPD-12 card is a government-wide standard form of identification for federal employees and contractors). Both forms of identification include a serial number and photo of the IRS employee.
  • Taxpayers have the right to see both forms of identification.
  • Taxpayers can verify the RO’s identity by calling a dedicated IRS phone number, which the RO should provide. Taxpayers should use this phone number to verify the information on the RO’s HSPD-12 card. The RO should also provide the phone number of his or her manager if the taxpayer asks for it.
  • If the taxpayer has an outstanding federal tax debt, the visiting officer will request payment. However, a legitimate RO won’t make threats or demand some unusual form of payment, like a prepaid debit card or an iTunes card. Any payments should be made to the U.S. Treasury.
  • RO’s may consider alternatives to immediate full payment of an outstanding tax debt, especially when requiring such payment would cause economic hardship.

Alternatives to immediate collection available to an RO include:

  • Setting up an installment agreement to allow the taxpayer to pay the bill over time;
  • Determining whether the taxpayer is a good candidate for an offer in compromise (under an offer in compromise, the IRS accepts less than the full amount of the tax liability);
  • Suspending collection due to the taxpayer’s currently not collectible status, which could include taxpayers owing trust fund taxes; and
  • Recommending relief from late-payment penalties if there is reasonable cause or recommending adjustment or abatement if there is doubt as to liability or collection potential of the tax debt.

Make sure to read this tip carefully so that you can avoid dealing with scammers.


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Sandy Botkin

Sandy is a CPA, Tax Attorney, and former IRS trainer. He has authored many helpful books on the subject of taxes, including 7 Simple Ways to Legally Avoid Paying Taxes ( Click Here ), Lower Your Taxes: Big Time ( Click Here ), and Real Estate Tax Secrets of the Rich ( Click Here ).

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