IRS To End Policy Of Unannounced Home Visits

The Internal Revenue Service said earlier this week that it would be bringing to an end one of its most controversial practices.

IRS officials said that they would no longer have agents make unannounced visits to businesses or people’s homes – for most taxpayers. The decision was made, IRS officials said, as part of broader overhauls of the tax agency, and it’s being done to not only lessen confusion among the public but also to improve safety.

During a call with members of the media on Monday, IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said:

“Starting today, if someone’s ringing your doorbell, it’s extremely unlikely to be an IRS collection employee unless you made an appointment for a home visit. The change reverses a long-standing practice by IRS revenue officers that goes back decades.”

In the past, revenue officers made unannounced visits to both businesses and homes in an attempt to recover a potential “substantial tax debt.” Werfel said this practice was done in cases where the median balance that was unpaid to the IRS was $110,000.

Revenue officers aren’t the same as revenue agents, as the latter classification of employee just conducts audits for the IRS.

Werfel added that part of the reason for this change in policy was that there have been significant safety concerns voiced by both taxpayers and IRS employees themselves. He explained:

“Knocking on someone’s door today is a different scenario than it was 10 or 15 years ago, and there have been significant reports from IRS employees where they have felt unsafe.”

Before an agent visits a home or business, they’ll now send out  725-B letter, which will be a mailed letter to serve as the initial point of contact with the taxpayer. That letter will seek to set an official in-person appointment for the taxpayer and an IRS agent in most cases.

That will hopefully be more effective at not only avoiding potentially dangerous situations, but also at collecting the money that is due to the IRS.

Werfel explained:

“We have the tools we need to successfully collect revenue without adding stress with unannounced visits.”

This new policy change by the IRS is supported by the National Treasury Employees Union, a group that represents all federal employees at 34 different federal agencies. As the union’s national president, Tony Reardon, said in a statement this week:

“Unfortunately, the hostile rhetoric and false claims about IRS employees have made their work more dangerous in recent years. The revenue officers we represent will continue to efficiently and effectively carry out their mission of helping taxpayers meet their lawful tax obligations through other means of communication.”

Werfel did say there would remain “extremely limited situations” in which an IRS agent may make an unannounced visit. This could be anytime the agency was attempting to seize assets, serve a subpoena or serve a summons. As he explained:

“These activities are just a drop in the bucket compared to the number of visits that have taken place in the past.”