IRS agents – are they as bad as you think they are?
Receiving a demand letter from the an IRS Revenue Officer on a Friday can ruin your weekend.
Preparing to call and speak with an agent of the IRS Automated Collection System can splinter your nerves.
Responding to an IRS auditor’s investigation of your tax return can make your pulse run and mind wander with anxiety.
An IRS Revenue Officer once told me “I am not a bad guy, but just the face of the bad guy.”
They have families, children, hobbies, friends outside of work, and take vacations. They are just like you. And, like you, few IRS agents want their job to be harder. They want their job to go smoothly, and that means getting your file resolved so they can move on to the next case on their desk.
Behind every IRS agent is a manager, who delegates his cases, monitors progress on your file, and makes sure things go as planned. We want a happy IRS agent, who in turn wants to please his manager.
Missed deadlines, improper documentation, failure to respond, and perceived lack of cooperation clog up the IRS inventory. This causes the agent to spend too much time working on a case and leads the agent to meet with the manager about you.
We want to make sure the IRS agent’s work is as easy as possible and can be completed timely, so the manager does not have to push the agent harder on you.
In other words, IRS agents are mostly reactive to us. They have your file on their desk and have a job to do. The harder it is for them, the tougher and more aggressive that agent may get.
The agents are not bad but can be turned bad. This occurs on a case by case basis and usually results from the circumstances of your case growing out of control. They are like us – they want to do their job and go home.
I understand that you may have tried and tried to reach an agreement with the agent, and just can’t seem to get through. It does not matter if the agent’s demands seem unreasonable: we need to find a common ground.
Here are ways to prevent your IRS agent from turning into a “bad guy:”
- Meet your deadlines. IRS agents live for deadlines. Help them move your case forward. This is IRS inventory management. It is not a bad thing – it means your IRS agent needs to resolve your file.
- Ask for more time. If you cannot make a deadline, simply ask for more time. Most agents will give you an extra week or two if we call in advance in good faith.
- Communicate with your IRS agent. Return phone calls promptly. Respond to letters timely. When an IRS agent does not hear back from you, she will make a presumption that you are not interested. Lack of communication translates into not wanting to repay your taxes or maybe having something to hide if you are being audited. You are making the agent’s work harder, causing the IRS to collect harder and audit deeper.
- Know IRS guidelines. The Internal Revenue Manual is the IRS playbook. Sometimes, an IRS agent will stray from guidelines, causing unnecessary friction. Other times, there could be an IRS guideline that is in your favor, but the IRS agent either does not know it, or simply overlooks finding it as a solution for you. In other words, IRS guidelines count, and knowing them are often a source of resolving difficult cases.
- Agree to disagree. No need to win the war and lose the IRS battle. It is important to recognize when negotiations have reached a boiling point, and how to simmer the pot. Sometimes, that means taking less than what you want. This compromise is not necessarily forever, as almost every IRS agent decision comes with appeal rights of review. In other words, we are able to disagree with an IRS auditor and get a second opinion that overrides it in IRS appeals.
When negotiating with IRS agents, it is important to keep an eye on case resolution – getting the IRS file closed and the IRS agent off your back. It is what the agent wants, and what you want – you have that in common.
IRS agents are humans doing their job. The IRS does not need to turn into the monster you fear, and your fears do not have to become reality.