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IRS ends most unannounced revenue officer home visits

Most homes have welcome mats, but the friendly message usually doesn't apply to IRS personnel making home visits. (Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash)

Nobody likes it when an Internal Revenue Service revenue officer shows up at a person's home. Not even the IRS officer.

That's one reason why IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel today announced that the agency will stop, except in a few unique circumstances, making unannounced visits to taxpayers' homes.

The move, effective immediately, ends a decades-long practice by IRS revenue officers. Before today's change, part of a revenue officer's job included visiting households to help taxpayers resolve tax account balances.

The unarmed IRS officers made the home visits to collect unpaid taxes and unfiled tax returns.

Inflammatory rhetoric concerns: However, recent political disinformation about gun-toting IRS officers has alarmed not only taxpayers, but also IRS employees.

That incorrect vision was conjured by Republican lawmakers opposed to the additional $80 million in funding the tax agency received as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Many IRS officers who conduct face-to-face interviews with taxpayers, both at agency facilities or outside meeting places, were concerned about the weapons-related mischaracterizations of how they do their jobs.

So the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which represents IRS employees, asked Werfel for the change in order to provide the officers with more protection from potentially dangerous overreactions by taxpayers.

"Unfortunately, the hostile rhetoric and false claims about IRS employees have made their work more dangerous in recent years," said NTEU National President Tony Reardon in a statement issued in conjunction with the IRS announcement.

"There is nothing more important than keeping our federal employees safe on the job, which is why we commend IRS leadership for this decision halting all unannounced taxpayer visits," added Reardon.

Scams add to confusion: Werfel acknowledged those concerns in making the end of most unannounced IRS home visits. He also pointed to increased security concerns in recent years on multiple fronts.

One of those fronts is scams, whose increases (like this summer's surge) have heightened taxpayer's trepidation about home visits by IRS personnel.

Sometimes scam artists appear at the door posing as IRS agents. This created confusion for not only the taxpayers living there, but also for local law-enforcement, Werfel said.

It also created anxiety for legitimate IRS personnel.

"The uncertainty around what IRS employees faced when visiting these homes created stress for them as well," Werfel added. "This is the right thing to do and the right time to end it."

Appointment letters instead: Reardon said that with the end of unannounced home visits, IRS officers will "carry out their mission of helping taxpayers meet their lawful tax obligations through other means of communication." 

That communication, noted Werfel, will be by via mailed letters, known as 725-B, which tells the taxpayer to schedule a meeting with an IRS officer to discuss the outstanding tax issues.

This arrangement should help taxpayers be more prepared when it is time to meet. They'll know and be able to prepare the necessary information and documents that will help resolve their cases more quickly.

When visits will continue: While the IRS is eliminating most unannounced revenue officer visits, they will continue in what the agency says will be extremely limited situations.

These rare instances include service of summonses and subpoenas, as well as sensitive enforcement activities that involve seizure of assets, especially those at risk of being placed beyond the reach of the government.

However, says the IRS, these types of situations typically number less than a few hundred each year. That's a small fraction compared to the tens of thousands of unannounced visits that typically occurred annually under the old policy.

The IRS will be updating its website and internal guidance in the months ahead to reflect the reduced home visit policy.

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I am very surprised to you you referring to Revenue Officers as agents. I know you know the difference.

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