IRS Officer Shows Up

When a representative from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) shows up at your door, it can be intimidating. If you or your business owe back taxes, you could find yourself in this situation, however. You can't ignore your tax debt—and the IRS surely won't.

Owing a federal tax debt can have negative repercussions. To settle your debts and learn how to handle an encounter with an IRS agent, contact an experienced tax attorney.

Why Does an IRS Revenue Officer Show Up in Person?

Under most circumstances, the IRS will send you a letter before taking any action. But sometimes, a Revenue Officer (RO) will show up in person, unannounced. The IRS allows some of its agents to present themselves in person when conducting a tax investigation or to attempt to collect a taxpayer's debt.

There are three reasons why someone from the IRS would visit you in-person, at your business or home.

  1. Collection: An IRS RO shows up at your home or place of business to discuss your back taxes and unfiled tax returns. They are civil employees who educate, investigate, and when needed, enforce.
  2. Audits: An IRS Revenue Agent visits you in-person if you're being audited. An auditor will usually fix an appointment with you first, however, by letter. A Revenue Agent might also contact you by phone.
  3. Criminal Investigations: IRS agents from the Criminal Investigation (CI) unit may visit you unannounced if they're conducting a criminal investigation, such as for tax evasion. These agents are federal law enforcement agents with a badge and firearms. They will never demand payment from you.

If you owe back taxes and an RO shows up to collect them, you can be sure the IRS is taking your case very seriously. There's no reason to panic, but if you haven't already, you should consider contacting a tax professional if an IRS agent of any kind shows up at your door.

IRS Personnel: Revenue Officer vs. Revenue Agent

An IRS Revenue Officer and Revenue Agent are not the same. They fulfill different job functions for the IRS. An Officer may conduct investigations and search for taxpayers in an effort to collect delinquent taxes from them. As collectors, Officers may garnish wages, seize assets, or file tax liens against you.

Revenue Agents, on the other hand, handle audits. They work more often with businesses than with individuals and they do not collect taxes. While a Revenue Officer can show up unannounced, a Revenue Agent will always contact you first to set up an appointment.

Avoiding Scams and False Revenue Officers

A well-known scam is someone showing up at your door, pretending to be an IRS agent, and attempting to collect payment. The IRS is aware of this fraudulent practice and offers guidance to taxpayers and businesses on how to deal with scams and verify the identity of legitimate IRS personnel.

IRS representatives will have credentials called a pocket commission and HSPD-12 card. The HSPD-12 card is an official form of identification for all federal employees and contractors. You have the right to ask the IRS representative for these credentials and to call the IRS by phone to verify the agent's identity.

The IRS can send RO's or other personnel to your home or business unannounced. But there are certain things the IRS will never do:

  • Demand that you pay your taxes in a certain way, with prepaid debit cards, money orders, gift cards, etc.
  • Demand you pay taxes without letting appeal or question what you owe first
  • Threaten to revoke your driver's license, business license, or immigration status
  • Ask you to write a check to any entity other than the United States Treasury
  • Threaten to call local law enforcement and arrest you for not paying
How the IRS Collects Payments

The IRS pursues back taxes persistently and has several methods for obtaining the taxes you owe, including property seizure, liens, freezing assets, or garnishing wages

  • Levies: If the IRS issues a levy against you, the agency intends to seize your property to pay off your tax debt. To first inform you of the impending levy, the IRS will send a Notice of Intent to Levy letter to you by mail.
  • Freezing Assets: The IRS may decide to freeze or put a hold on your assets, including your bank checking and savings accounts. The IRS will notify you before doing so.
  • Garnishing wages: After an audit, the IRS will determine how much you owe in back taxes. To collect this debt, the agency might garnish your wages.
  • Tax lien: When the IRS files a tax lien against you, the agency stakes a claim in your property. They don't seize your property or financial assets but will profit from them before you or other creditors can. A lien can hurt your credit score and make it difficult to obtain a loan.
What Should You Do if a Revenue Officer Shows Up?

If an RO visits you unannounced, you should be courteous, but don't forget that you have certain rights. The RO might give you a Form 433-B to fill out. The IRS uses this form to set up an installment plan or payment plan for your delinquent taxes.

You do not have to fill out this form while the RO is present. You can accept the form and fill it out later.

When an RO shows up at your home, you do not have to let them in. If they have a warrant, they will have other law enforcement agents with them. If you don't want to (or can't) pay the RO on the spot, take their name and ID number and let them know you're seeking representation.

If an RO or Criminal Investigation agent from the IRS visits you in-person, it's time to act. An experienced California tax attorney can help you deal with your back taxes and prepare you for any future, unannounced visits from IRS representatives. Contact a California Tax Attorney today for a consultation.

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California Tax Attorneys is committed to answering your questions about IRS Offer in Compromise, IRS Audit & Appeals, IRS Installment Plan Agreement, California State Tax Issues, IRS Tax Levies/Liens, Payroll Taxes & Trust Fund Recovery Penalty, Unfiled Tax Returns, and Sales & Use Tax law issues in California.

We offer a free consultation and we’ll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.