The IRS showing up at your front step is more than just a common nightmare—for some, it can be a reality. Maybe they’ve gotten behind on their taxes recently due to a job loss, or they haven’t paid their taxes in years, and now that there’s an officer at their door, they don’t know what to do.
These days, it’s more likely than ever to have a Revenue Officer (RO) show up at your doorstep out of the blue. This is due to a recent effort by the IRS to “increase compliance” through IRS Compliance Sweeps. Sweeps are the IRS practice of conducting unscheduled face-to-face meetings with individual and business taxpayers as part of a special compliance effort called Revenue Officer Compliance Sweep (ROCS).
IRS Agent vs. Revenue Officer: What’s the difference?
IRS Agents examine tax returns.
Revenue Officers collect taxes.
The IRS has developed a few areas of interest to focus on when it comes to the Revenue Officer Compliance Sweep. While the odds of being affected by this new effort are still relatively low, it is best to know how to handle this situation and what is expected to happen during the meeting, particularly for those taxpayers who are more vulnerable to becoming the target of someone using this new door knocking process as a scam, such as the elderly.
IRS Compliance Focus Areas
While the IRS is calling this an “extremely high-priority effort,” lack of resources means the IRS has had to decide where and on whom they want to focus their efforts during these Revenue Officer Compliance Sweeps.
Specifically, these efforts are focused on individual and business taxpayers with compliance issues, including missing returns and taxes owed. There is also a special emphasis on payroll taxes. Revenue officers will visit areas where the IRS has little or no presence. The ROCS are set to begin in Wisconsin, Texas and Arkansas, but they will eventually roll out nationwide.
These visits won’t be completely unannounced or without any prior notice. The IRS emphasized that visits typically occur after they have made numerous contact attempts by mail about the existing tax issue. The primary goal of the IRS is to resolve these compliance issues through the mail, but that may not always be the case.
How to Identify a Revenue Officer and What to Expect
If an IRS Revenue Officer shows up at your door, have them identify themselves and prove that who is in front of you is actually who they claim to be. And until that is done, give them no personal information or answer any questions.
To help protect yourself against a scam, here is a list of things to look for and ask for to determine that it is a legitimate IRS visit:
If the taxpayer has an outstanding federal tax debt, the visiting officer will request payment and provide a range of payment options, including a check payable to the U.S. Treasury. If you are concerned for any number of reasons, you can refuse to make the payment or sign anything until you have the ability to contact a person knowledgeable in tax controversy work to discuss the issues and potential resolutions. Concerns could include doubt over an actual outstanding tax liability or the RO being legitimate, to name a few.
Usually, a Power of Attorney (2848) will be needed, but a tax controversy professional can reset the discussion time with the RO until authorization can be obtained.
Once the RO is confirmed to be legitimate, they have the responsibility to educate you or the client on the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, identify economic hardships and provide collection alternatives. Some of these alternatives include, but are not limited to:
Understanding IRS Compliance & Revenue Office Compliance Sweeps
If you find yourself with an unscheduled said-to-be IRS RO at your door, be alert and follow these steps:
IRS Compliance can be terrifying and tricky.
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