The IRS has two main sources of carrying out its work in collecting taxes: local Revenue Officers and its Automated Collection Service.
When you get that call or letter from IRS collections, it’s important to know who you are dealing with – and what to expect.
The IRS Automated Collection Service – commonly known as “ACS” – is a series of IRS call centers staffed by IRS collection employees. You will never see or meet an ACS employee face-to-face; all of their work is conducted by telephone. And the vast majority of telephone work conducted by ACS is responding to inbound calls, not making outbound calls. The inbound calls are the result of collection notices the IRS sends out.
These ACS collection notices are computer-generated, bearing names like:
Reminder – You Have a Balance Due (CP 501)
Important – Immediate Action is Required (CP 503)
Urgent – We Intend To Levy on Certain Assets – Please Respond Now (CP 504)
Final Notice Of Intent to Levy and Notice of Your Right to a Hearing (CP 90)
Of these notices, the Reminder (CP 501), Important (CP 503) and Urgent (CP 504) are going to be sent by ACS, by computer, with no real human element involved. The IRS is looking at you, but no single person is – everything is coming from a computer. The notice exception is the Final Notice of Intent to Levy (CP 90) – which can be issued by either ACS or a local Revenue Officer.
You get one of these collection notices, and you call the IRS Automated Collection Service 1-800 number in response. That is what ACS is set-up for – sending out automated collection notices, and then handling the phone calls that result.
Remember, when you call ACS, there is not one person assigned to your case. The person you speak with today – and let’s say that person gives a one week deadline to call back with financial information – will be different than the person you speak with the next week if you call back with the information requested. This can result in inconsistencies in the way you are treated and your case is handled.
But always bear in that the IRS Automated Collection Service does not seize your house, your personal property, or your business assets or equipment. Remember, ACS is made up of computer-generated levy notices; seizures of real and personal property require high-level approval, and often require the filing of a lawsuit in court. This is the job of a local IRS Revenue Officer, not a 1-800 service.
ACS can, however, levy your bank account or your wages. Their focus is on liquid-type assets that are easy to find and can be taken by a computer notice. ACS usually finds your bank account or wages by relying on information it already has stored in its computer database. This information comes from your bank or your employer when they report it to the IRS every year in the form of a W2 or 1099. Automated Collection Service knows where you bank, and where you work – enabling it to levy you.
Good communication is key to preventing a levy from Automated Collection Service. The IRS levies as a last resort. They really do not want to levy, but unopened mail and failure to respond puts the IRS in an attention-getting mode. These levies can be released by doing what the IRS wanted in the first place: good communication, compliance and a financial statement to determine how to repay (or possibly not repay) the debt.
And remember that ACS – or any IRS employee – cannot levy you without first sending you notice first. That notice is the Final Notice of Intent to Levy and Notice of Your Right to a Hearing. If the IRS has not sent that notice, they cannot levy. If they have, you have 30 days to file an appeal that will stop them from levying. Even if 30 days has expired, the IRS will usually allow one year grace time to file the appeal (known as an Equivalent Hearing). In addition to stopping IRS collection action, the appeal transfers your case from the Automated Collection Service to IRS appeals – giving you an opportunity to by-pass 1-800 negotiations and meet face-to face with one person to resolve your case.
The IRS big, and its Automated Collection Service can unfortunately be impersonal. To get the best results, it is important to know who you are dealing with and what your rights and options are when ACS calls, writes or levies.