Increased IRS Compliance & How it Will Affect You

February 18, 2020 | Article

By Ben Peeler, J.D., CPA, LL.M. and Elyse Katz

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:

  • Taxpayers may receive an appointment letter requesting certain information and providing an opportunity to call the IRS to set up an appointment prior to the visit. If this letter is ignored, the chances of someone showing up at your door unscheduled are increased.

  • The first face-to-face contact from a RO will most likely be unannounced. Taxpayers should be aware they have a tax issue before they receive a visit from a RO because the IRS would have previously sent correspondence attempting to resolve the issue. Not answering IRS notices, especially those sent by certified mail, increases the odds that someone will come to talk about it.

  • When an RO visits a taxpayer, they will always provide two forms of official credentials, a pocket commission and a HSPD-12 card. Both forms include a serial number and photo of the IRS employee. The HSPD-12 card is a government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification for federal employees and contractors. Taxpayers have the right to see each of these credentials. They can also verify information on the RO’s HSPD-12 card by calling a dedicated IRS telephone number, provided by the RO, for verifying the information and confirming his or her identity. But, be cautious: a scammer may give you a number to call, it just won’t be to the IRS.

  • A legitimate RO is there to get taxpayers to understand and meet their tax obligations. They are not there to make threats or demand some unusual form of payment for a known, or unknown, tax liability. The RO will explain the liability to the taxpayer. Taxpayers may request the name and telephone number of the manager of the field revenue officer if they have any concerns.

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:

  • Setting up an installment agreement to allow the taxpayer to pay the bill over time

  • Recommending relief from penalties (when available) imposed when the tax bill is overdue (e.g., if there is reasonable cause) or recommending adjustment or abatement if the tax debt is in doubt

  • Evaluating whether the taxpayer is a good candidate for an offer in compromise, where the IRS would accept less than the full amount of the tax liability

  • Suspending collection due to currently non-collectible accounts, which could include In Business Trust Fund taxpayers

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:

  1. Never give out your social security number, bank or other financial information without getting verification of who you are giving it to. The same goes for unsolicited telephone calls or emails.
  2. Verify who is at your door.
  3. If they don’t tell you, ask them to tell you about your rights under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
  4. Know that you can refuse to make payment and seek professional advice.

IRS Compliance can be terrifying and tricky.

Stay current on your favorite topics


Learn More

Take a deeper dive into this Insight’s subject matter.

IRS Dispute Resolution & Collections Tax