The IRS is ending unannounced visits to taxpayers to protect agents’ safety

The Internal Revenue Service is suspending most unannounced visits by its revenue officers to taxpayer homes and businesses after a growing number of threats put the safety of its employees at risk.

Instead, the IRS said Monday it will send taxpayers an appointment letter, formally known as a 725-B, and schedule a follow-up meeting when the matter is reviewed.

However, in some limited cases, revenue officers will still have to make unannounced visits, such as when the agency needs a subpoena or subpoena, or when there is an enforcement action, such as the seizure of assets at risk of removal from the US. This will not affect IRS criminal investigation officers, who can still make unannounced visits.

The change comes amid rising levels of threats against IRS agents, especially after the passage of last year’s Inflation Relief Act, which included an additional $80 billion over 10 years for IRS and taxpayer services, technology and enforcement. Opponents of the legislation have floated conspiracy theories warning that it would fund the hiring of 10,000 armed IRS agents to raid people’s homes and businesses, and Republicans in Congress have repeatedly pushed to eliminate the funding since it took over the House of Representatives last year. The Biden administration last month agreed to redistribute additional IRS funding to other domestic programs in a deal with Republicans to avoid a default on the federal government’s debt limit.

IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel was asked by Accounting Today at a press conference on Monday whether these types of IRA fears led to the policy change, but he declined to connect the two. “Can we achieve the goal of effective tax administration? That is why we are making these unannounced visits today,” he said.

He explained the general changes in advance at the press conference. IRS revenue officers have long visited homes and businesses in person when there were unpaid taxes and people didn’t respond to notices by mail, but those visits have been fraught for both taxpayers and tax collectors.

IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel testifies at a Senate Finance Committee hearing

“These are difficult jobs, full of uncertainty,” Werfel said. “Revenue officers work to resolve unpaid account balances by collecting unpaid taxes and unfiled tax returns. Since my arrival as IRS Commissioner four months ago and the creation of a new IRS Strategic Operating Plan in April, we have been looking at how the IRS works to better serve taxpayers and the nation. Making this change is a common step toward ending unannounced visits.”

After becoming commissioner, Werfel learned there have been long-standing concerns about the visits, especially since scammers in recent years have impersonated IRS agents in robocalls and threatened to arrest innocent people for unpaid taxes.

“With the rise of fraudsters, taxpayers are increasingly uncertain about who is knocking on their doors,” he said. “For our IRS employees on these visits, there were fears for their personal safety.”

This concern was shared by the Union of Treasury Employees, he noted; NTEU has long advocated for increased security for IRS employees.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our federal employees on the job, which is why we applaud IRS leadership for this decision to end all unannounced visits to taxpayers,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said in a press release Monday. “The revenue officers we represent will continue to effectively and efficiently carry out their mission to assist taxpayers in meeting their statutory tax obligations through other means of communication.

NTEU noted that IRS revenue officers have been meeting with taxpayers for decades to help them comply and collect the taxes they owe. “Unfortunately, hostile rhetoric and false claims about IRS employees have made their work more dangerous in recent years,” Reardon added, addressing critics in Congress. “As long as elected officials continue to mislead the American people about the lawful, legitimate role that IRS employees play in our democracy, the NTEU will continue to insist on better security for the employees we represent. It is outrageous that our nation’s public servants live in fear simply because they have chosen a career in public service. The consequences are dire.”

Werfel said the move was aimed more at public safety and scam artists.

“IRS leadership agrees on the importance of security, and so do I,” he said. “That’s why I’m making this decision effective immediately. Ending unannounced visits is good for everyone: the taxpayer and IRS employees. It’s good for everyone with one exception: The losers of this decision are the scam artists who impersonate the IRS and threaten hard-working taxpayers. The change reflects the spirit of the work being done at the IRS. Ways to effectively collect debts owed to the government without knocking on doors. To help, the Inflation Reduction Act will add funding s more staff for compliance work, including revenue officers, as part of our efforts to ensure fairness in tax enforcement, including a focus on high-income taxpayers in tax matters.

The IRS will replace unannounced visits with mailed 725-B letters to schedule in-person meetings. “This will help taxpayers feel more prepared when it comes time to meet,” Werfel said. “Taxpayers whose cases are under the charge of a revenue officer will now be able to make face-to-face appointments at a designated location. They will have the information and documents they need to get their jobs done faster.

According to him, this will help to eliminate the burden of many future meetings. Under the old policy, the IRS typically referred about 100,000 cases to revenue officers each year, but it did not have a specific number of unannounced visits. IRS auditors and revenue agents do not make these types of unannounced visits, and the policy change will affect approximately 2,300 revenue officers.

However, this does not apply to the CI unit of the IRS.

“Our criminal investigation agents, like other law enforcement, have different requirements and their investigative work still requires unannounced visits,” Werfel said. “Today’s decision is part of a larger plan to help us work smarter and more efficiently. When we have the right resources, we work more efficiently. It’s easier for us to improve our technology, it’s easier for us to improve our analytical tools. Income taxpayers and corporate pathways. Today’s announcement is the right thing to do and the right time to end an era at the IRS. It’s good for taxpayers and good for the nation.”

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