By Ben Peeler, Leslie Spires
February 01, 2019
Let’s set the stage:
It’s a bright, sun-filled Monday and Sam is out of his office for an afternoon appointment. As his appointment is coming to a close, he gets a text message from his office manager telling him that an IRS revenue officer stopped by the office, looked around, asked for him, and left their card. Then, a few days later, the same revenue officer shows up unannounced at Sam’s home while Sam is at the grocery store, and once again, left their card.
It seems that Sam defaulted on an IRS installment agreement for payment of prior taxes a few months ago that was caused by failure to keep up with current tax requirements. Sam tells himself that he’s busy taking care of his family, building a business, and doing what he can to make ends meet. But, what he didn’t do was make contact with the IRS.
With the visits by the IRS, Sam knows he has to do something now, so he makes plans to call the revenue officer the next morning. He calls around 8 a.m., hoping to catch the revenue officer before their day gets busy. Instead, he gets their voicemail announcing they’re out of the office for training the rest of the week. No big deal, Sam thinks, he can call next Monday. Monday comes, Sam calls and gets their voicemail again. Sam calls again on Wednesday… and Friday … leaving a voicemail every time. The revenue officer does not call back. Then, when Sam calls the following Tuesday, the revenue officer’s answering service says they are out of the office on vacation for 10 days. Eight days later, Sam receives a Final Notice of Intent to Levy on his assets. Things have gone from bad, to worse, very quickly.
It Can’t Be Sam’s Fault, Or Can It?
Sam, to say the least, is discouraged and cannot understand why the revenue officer isn’t returning his calls, now that he is trying so hard to make contact. He then reads an article about IRS budget cuts, and the scale back in IRS employees and revenue officer agents. The article says there were 42 percent less field collections staff (like the revenue officer Sam is trying to contact) in 2017 than there were in 2013. They may not be returning Sam’s calls because they are simply too busy to do so.
But, as is so often is the case, there’s more to the story. The interest in Sam’s tax problems by the IRS didn’t start when the revenue officer showed up at his office and home. There would have been several collection style letters sent to him by the IRS before that will happen. Sam either ignored the prior notices or gridlocked in taking action at the time they were received.
Sam is now finding out the hard way that not communicating with the IRS can turn out to be a much more painful experience than dealing directly with his tax problems.
When Sam failed to communicate with the IRS early on about his tax problems and what could be done, he set the stage for bad things to start happening. But, even as bad as it now seems for Sam, it’s still not too late to get things back in order.
What Sam Can Do
As a taxpayer, Sam has certain rights guaranteed to him through the Taxpayer Bill of Rights:
Sam can take a different approach. Rather than continue to try to call the revenue officer, Sam can contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service for assistance. Sam can, and should, also seek professional assistance to help intervene with the IRS and manage any aggressive collection efforts by the revenue officer, as well as establish a plan for Sam to deal with his tax problems.
Now, What About You?
If you find yourself following in Sam’s footsteps, it’s time to contact our IRS Dispute Resolution and Collections team for a free consultation. We know how to deal with IRS collection activities to bring you into compliance.