What to Do If an IRS Agent Visits My Home or Business?
It’s late in the evening and you are in the middle of a family dinner. The doorbell chimes repeatedly, punctuated by loud knocks on the front door. Annoyed, you get up from the table and open the door. Surprise! It is an IRS revenue agent and they want to speak to you … NOW! This only happens on TV and in the movies, right? Wrong.
IRS revenue agents can and will show up at your home or place of business at any time night or day to collect. They mean business and want their money on the spot. Even though you are probably freaked out of your mind, take a deep breath and try to keep calm.
Even though you are not under arrest (let me make that very clear) you should exercise your right to remain silent. Politely tell them that is not a good time to talk (e.g., family within earshot, or in front of employees if it happens at your workplace, etc.) Ask for the agent’s card and tell them that you or your attorney will be in touch.
Generally, I recommend that taxpayers seek out the help of professional representation to deal with a revenue officer matter. However, I also realize professional representation is not an option for some people. As such, I wanted to take the opportunity to share some of the strategies that I have used throughout the years.
What do I do if an IRS revenue officer comes to my home or place of business?
IRS revenue officers are field collection agents. They spend about 50 percent of their time in the field going after taxpayers and/or chasing their assets. If a revenue officer shows up at your home or place of business, understand that you are not obligated to talk to them.
The best thing you can do in that case is to get the revenue officer's card, get any paperwork that they have to hand to you and then go see an attorney as soon as possible so that you can deal with the situation.
Understand that whenever a revenue officer takes the time and energy to come to your home or place of business, it is a fairly serious matter. The IRS views you as a serious collection risk. That is why they have assigned and sent an individual field agent to come see you.
Dealing with a revenue officer generally requires the assistance of an attorney because when things turn south with revenue officers, they often get really tenuous for the taxpayer.
When you have a situation with a revenue officer, exercise your right to remain silent, get your attorney involved, and let us do the communication going forward. It is the easiest and smoothest way to deal with the situation and to avoid conflict in the future.
Help me, I have a government agent at my door, what do I do?
The first thing is, do not talk to the agent. Get the agent’s card, get their contact information, figure out who that person is and pause and take a deep breath.
Agents show up at your door for a couple of reasons. Usually three.
You owe them money and they are trying to collect. They are auditing you, but usually when they are auditing you, they will send a letter in advance.
It is not like people go through surprise audits. Number three, are criminal investigation people, and obviously, if a criminal investigative agent shows up at your door, you will want to be very careful with what you tell them. The same goes with a civil collection agent.
Somebody paying a surprise visit to you is not really a welcome thing and you are probably not prepared for it. The easiest thing to do is to say, "I cannot talk to you, I need to run this by an attorney. I will have somebody reach out to you and go from there." The agent will not take any offense to that.
Some of them may strong-arm you and may say, "You do not need an attorney, I have a personal matter to discuss with you." Do not listen to it. You are not obligated to talk to that agent, and that agent cannot force you to talk to them.
The best thing that you can do is stop, get the agent's contact information, take their card, and figure out how to go from there.
Chances are, you probably know or at least have some inclination of why the agent is showing up, and if you truly do not know why, then that is a big red flag.
You should have somebody check it out before you start giving information, because you do not want to just give the government information without any context. We want to understand why they are asking for the information, what it has to do with you and how it is going to be used.
Just do not talk to the agent. Nothing good will come from talking to the agent until you understand what the situation is. Then you can determine how cooperative you are going to be.
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About IRS Revenue Officers
IRS revenue officers are the most senior collections agents in the IRS. IRS revenue officers handle those delinquent accounts that the IRS places the highest priority on, so much so that the government has assigned a local agent to specifically work the case in order to collect what is owed to the IRS.
Generally, these individuals are highly trained and will incorporate an arsenal of tools and tactics in order to resolve the account in the favor of the IRS. They can retrieve third-party records through summons, contact your employer, show up at your home or work, and seize a variety of assets (wages, accounts receivable, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, merchant accounts, etc.) in order to satisfy your tax liability.
Having a revenue officer assigned to your collection account is a serious matter and it is important to take that person and their collection efforts seriously. Failure to do so may land you on the bad side of the revenue officer and may make your life extremely difficult.
Dealing with IRS Revenue Officers
Many revenue officers are nice people and there some I would consider professional friends. However, I am under no illusions when I have to deal with a revenue officer. They usually have the upper hand when negotiating a resolution with the taxpayer and some take advantage of it. Some will use the threat of harsh collection tactics to intimidate the taxpayer into paying more per month than they may feel comfortable doing. Others can be deceptive.
I do not mean to cast revenue officers in a negative light, as many of them are hard-working people who are just trying to do their job. However, there have been multiple instances of revenue officer abuse documented throughout the years and it is best to be vigilant when dealing with them.
If a revenue officer has been assigned to your case, it means that you are considered a high-priority collection case within the IRS (they usually do not send revenue officers after people with small balances or those who are low priority). As such, revenue officer cases can be more time-consuming and much more difficult to resolve.
From the taxpayer’s standpoint, the most important objective other than a successful resolution to your account. is to get them out of your life as soon as possible. No one likes the IRS looking over their shoulder and the longer that they linger, the more opportunity exists for them to make your life miserable. So do not let them.
If I call IRS Automated Collection Systems and find out that the account is being transferred into the field, then I work diligently with my taxpayer to make sure all our T’s are crossed and our I’s are dotted before the revenue officer even gets on the scene. This may involve getting any and all delinquent returns prepared ahead of time (or at least getting a jump on the process and having an update for the revenue officer when they arrive on the scene).
This may also involve having a financial statement (433-A) drafted ahead of time and updated on a monthly basis for a few months until it is time to speak with the revenue officer. Trust me, I know it is a lot to deal with right upfront, but it pays dividends in the end.
My advice is that if you are in so deep with the IRS that they are coming to your home or business, then you really need professional representation. Brotman Law has successfully represented clients in front of the IRS for many years and we know their tactics. Oftentimes, we can put a halt to the collection attempts and devise a strategy for you to get the IRS off your back.
If professional reputation is not an option for you, we hope that this information has helped you understand the role of an IRS revenue officer and how you should deal with them. Please call me to discuss your case and I can steer you in the right direction if you need to take on the IRS by yourself.