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.