The Internal Revenue Service announced recently that it will immediately scale back its practice of sending unarmed agents to make surprise visits to homes and businesses. The visits were a core part of the agency’s efforts to collect unpaid taxes for the last few decades. The change came about, in part, due to the prevalence of scammers who pose as agents, as well as increasing safety concerns.
The I.R.S. is in the early stages of a multi-billion-dollar modernization initiative – the largest overhaul of the agency since its inception in 1862. The plan includes upgrading technology, improving customer service, and increasing enforcement of the tax code, with the goals of putting I.R.S. resources to more efficient use, and to allow agents to work constructively with taxpayers.
While the agency won’t be letting up on delinquent taxpayers, they will be enforcing violations in a much less stressful way for everyone.
Under the old policy, unarmed revenue officers typically made tens of thousands of unannounced visits each year to households and businesses with debts of $100,000 or more, or to address concerns that a business was falling behind. Some taxpayers have claimed that the visits to homes and businesses were overly aggressive, leading to an outrageous spread of misinformation on social media.
The misinformation led to threats directed at I.R.S. employees. The new policy is expected to be a welcome relief, not just for taxpayers who don’t care for unpleasant surprises, but for revenue officers who have growing concerns about personal safety.
Most in person visits will be replaced with mailed letters requesting taxpayers schedule meetings with a revenue officer. The criminal investigation unit of the I.R.S. will not be affected by this change.
The unannounced visits will continue in cases that involve summonses and subpoenas, or the seizure of assets. Those cases occur less than 100 times annually. Taxpayers who ignore written correspondences from the I.R.S. could eventually face penalties or liens on their property.
Delinquent taxpayers without a current mailing address on file, might receive their first communication from the IRS when their bank account is levied, or a lien is filed against their property. It’s a kinder IRS, but they are still here to collect taxes.
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