Latest Tax News - IRS Reduces Unannounced Visits to Avoid Scams and Protect Agents
Chicago-Kent College of LawIllinois Tech

Call Today 312-906-5041

IRS Reduces Unannounced Visits to Avoid Scams and Protect Agents

 Posted on March 22,2024 in Audit

Blog ImageWhen taxpayers fail to pay taxes or file tax returns, revenue officers of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), can show up, unannounced, to homes and businesses to collect the unpaid taxes and unfiled tax returns. Tens of thousands of these unannounced visits occur each year, usually to collect debts of more than $10,000. On July 24, 2023, the IRS announced that the agency would lessen the number of these visits to protect the safety of revenue officers, work better with taxpayers, and address the risk of scammers pretending to be IRS employees. With this change, IRS agents will now conduct only a few hundred unannounced visits in rare circumstances, specifically where the IRS needs to seize assets or carry out summonses and subpoenas. Most unannounced visits will be replaced with mailed letters, known as a Letter 725-B, that provide taxpayers with the option to schedule a face-to-face meeting with an IRS officer. The agency can also issue penalties or liens on the property of taxpayers who fail to respond to IRS notices of unpaid taxes or unfiled returns.

According to IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel, this change in the agency’s practice of making unannounced visits is part of a broader, multi-million dollar change to IRS operations that will improve the agency’s use of resources, create better communication with taxpayers, improve customer service, and modernize technology. The change also aims to improve the public view of the IRS, which has been criticized by lawmakers who claim the agency is politically biased and by taxpayers who claim its agents use aggressive tactics. “These visits created extra anxiety for taxpayers already wary of potential scam artists,” Werfel said in an interview with NBC News in July 2023. “At the same time, the uncertainty around what IRS employees faced when visiting these homes created stress for them as well. This is the right thing to do and the right time to end it.” Because taxpayers, anti-government, and anti-tax groups have used the internet or social media to search for IRS employees and identify their personal information, including their families and the locations of their homes, to threaten or physically hurt them, the IRS will also limit its use of agents’ personal information on communications with taxpayers beginning in May 2024. In a New York Times article in July 2023, Werfel explained: “We are taking a fresh look at how the IRS operates to better serve taxpayers and the nation, and making this change is a common-sense step. Changing this longstanding procedure will increase confidence in our tax administration work and improve overall safety for taxpayers and IRS employees.” 

The IRS employs both armed and unarmed revenue officers, but the agency’s new policy change only impacts its 2,000 unarmed officers who make unannounced visits to collect unpaid taxes and past-due tax returns rather than armed agents who are part of the agency’s criminal investigation unit.

While reducing the number of unannounced visits made by IRS agents is a welcome change that will help to protect taxpayers from scammers and keep revenue officers safe, how can taxpayers identify tax scams or scam artists posing as IRS agents? 

Tax scams can take many different forms, including emails, text messages, phone calls, or regular mail. It is important to know that, generally, the IRS does not send unsolicited emails to taxpayers. Further, the IRS will never initiate contact by emails, text messages, or contact taxpayers through social media to request personal or financial information. Scams can include fraudulent emails that promise taxpayers fake tax refunds, seek to verify their PIN information, or threaten them with false legal or criminal charges, such as arrest or deportation. A taxpayer may also receive a text message from scammers claiming his account has been “put on hold” or that there is “unusual activity” on an account and providing a fake “solutions” link, which can contain malware that infects computers and allows scammers to access certain files and gain personal information. Scammers can also send letters using the IRS masthead. While such mail looks official, the contact information is not. Taxpayers may receive calls from scam artists posing as IRS agents, who alter the caller ID to make it appear as if the call is coming from the IRS and use fake names and identification badge numbers to try to steal money or personal information. Taxpayers should be wary of callers who claim that they owe money and must pay through a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer. Scammers can also show up at a taxpayer’s home or business pretending to be IRS agents.

The best way to respond to email scams (phishing) is to not reply, click, save, or open any attachments, or click on electronic links.

It is also important for taxpayers to know that, before officers make unannounced visits to their homes and businesses, the IRS will usually send them several letters, called “notices” (except for limited situations where unannounced visits are warranted, as discussed above). IRS employees also carry two types of official identification that contain serial numbers and photos: credentials issued from the IRS and an HSPD-12 card. If an IRS agent shows up, unannounced, at a taxpayer’s door, the taxpayer should look for these credentials and can request to see them.

Tax scams can be reported to the appropriate contacts listed on the following webpage:      

Thanks to Danielle Gensburg for this excellent blog, reprinted with permission

Share this post:
Back to Top