How to make an IRS Revenue Officer’s day
You have come to know your IRS Revenue Officer as difficult, unyielding, and, of course, aggressive.
You believe that the Revenue Officer has one job, and that is to make your life difficult.
The truth is probably very different.
The reality is the unfair treatment you feel you are getting is likely the result of difficulties the Revenue Officer believes she has had in working with you.
You may disagree with this, and you could be right. But the power is with the Revenue Officer, and as a starting point it is her perception that matters.
Think of it this way: When your head is in the mouth of the bear, say nice bear.
Revenue Officers are reactive to you. They do not want to linger on you anymore than you want them to.
How do we change the Revenue Officer’s perception that you are making her job difficult?
Most problems occur from not understanding what it takes to help the Revenue Officer reach resolution and negotiate to move your case off her desk.
Here is some insight into Revenue Officers, and ways to make their day – and yours – better:
- Meet all deadlines the Revenue Officer gives you.
The RO will likely give you deadlines, and there is a good reason why. Remember, the Revenue Officer has many cases to work, and must move cases forward to resolution. Other cases are waiting in the wings. Deadlines are not just a collection enforcement tool, but an important aspect of inventory management. Miss them and you upset the work flow, and levy action often is the result.
If there is a deadline that cannot be met, call the RO and explain the reasons, and request a short continuance. Extensions of time are best requested if supported by a demonstrated effort to comply – if you can’t get everything in time, give the RO some of the information. For example, if you have four years of unfiled returns and cannot get them all completed by the RO’s deadline, try to get one or two to the RO, and request a little more time for the remainder. This demonstrates good faith and respect – you are saying nice bear.
- Stay in compliance with your tax filings and payments.
Your file has been assigned to a Revenue Officer for a reason – maybe you have unfiled tax returns and have not been making estimated tax payments to the IRS. The Revenue Officer’s job is to fix that, and bring you into compliance with the IRS. In other words, the bleeding must stop.
Failure to get into compliance is the cardinal sin for an IRS Revenue Officer. It is a knife cutting into the RO’s job, and that means she will likely reciprocate and do the same to you with a levy. Not because she really wants to, but because she has to work her case.
- Tell the IRS where you work and bank, how much you make and spend every month, and what you own.
I know this seems awfully intrusive. But please remember, you owe money to the IRS, and the Revenue Officer’s job is to determine how it can be repaid. To do that, she will need to know about your financial state of affairs.
The financial disclosures should not to lead to bad things, as you may fear. In fact, it is the failure to tell that leads to IRS aggression. Telling the IRS can lead to an installment agreement, or an offer in compromise to settle the debt. After reviewing your finances, the IRS can even make a determination that you are unable to repay them, and doing so would create a financial hardship. In those cases, the IRS can consider you to be a bad debt, not require any payments, take no levy action, and place your debt in currently uncollectible status.
There are specific forms the IRS wants you to use in making the financial disclosures. If you have an individual tax debt, the IRS requires that we use their Form 433A; if your business owes the taxes, then Form 433B is used.
With the completion of the forms, the Revenue Officer will also want documentation to verify what is on the Form 433A or 433B, including bank statements, paystubs, proof of mortgage, utility and insurance payments, and statements showing how much you owe on your cars and house.
Remember that every Revenue Officer has a manager that she has to report to about progress on your case. The longer your case is open and the harder you make it for the Revenue Officer, the more likely her manager will recommend more aggressive action against you.
In other words, don’t clog up your Revenue Officer’s inventory. The RO and her manager will discuss any lack of compliance. The result will be levies on your wages and accounts, and sending out a summons for your records.
I work with Revenue Officers almost every day, and they families, take vacations, have interests off hours, and have a sense of humor. You may not believe it, but they are like you and me. We have our jobs, and they have theirs. And they are usually fair in how they approach their job. But to get fairness it is important to know what they require, timely provide it, and negotiate case resolution and closure. That can help make a Revenue Officer’s day, and yours, too.