Meeting with the IRS is a stressful situation, filled with questions about what to expect. If you have to meet with the IRS, a common concern is how to present yourself.
Whether you are meeting with an IRS collections officer (Revenue Officer), an auditor (Revenue Agent) or with an appeals officer, it is important to understand that IRS employees have wide experience meeting with taxpayers. Do not underestimate that they are reading you. Presume that they are able to differentiate an honest person caught in unintended circumstances from someone who will be uncooperative.
If you are the honest person meeting with the IRS because a life circumstance (such as divorce, business failure, health problems, job loss) brought you there, the first rule is to be yourself. That does not mean to turn into a well of tears (that usually does not work) or to talk too much and answer more than the question asked, but to present your situation as it is: a good person in an unintended situation who wants to cooperate and address the problem.
Yes, some IRS employees may put up a wall of indifference, and some may be more compassionate to your situation. But either way, it is important to be genuine and human. (If you are contacted by an IRS criminal investigator, it is best to be courteous but say nothing – talking is evidence that could be used in your prosecution. In criminal matters, tell the IRS you would like to consult with an attorney before answering any questions.)
The IRS is judging your credibility.
Dress with respect, but not in a way that is out of character. If you would never wear a suit and tie, do not wear one to meet with the IRS – it is not you. If you are coming off a job and your clothes are dirty, it would be best to freshen up. Work clothes are absolutely fine – again, this is who you are. And you want to do everything possible for the IRS to see you as a person, not a case file.
With all this being said, bear in mind that most taxpayers who are represented by a professional – whether an attorney or an enrolled agent – rarely meet with the IRS. If you are represented, it is likely you will never have to worry about what to wear, how to act and what to say. In most situations, all negotiations and face-to-face meetings are handled by the representative – you are at work and doing your thing, and your representative is handling matters for you, either meeting with the IRS or on the phone with them for you.
But if you are compelled to meet with the IRS – usually because of an IRS summons compelling you to meet or because it is the best case strategy to move the case forward – be yourself.