A Revenue Officer showed up at my door, now what?
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, IRS Revenue Officers did their work remotely, like so many of us. Now, however, Revenue Officers are coming back out into the field, resuming their surprise visits to your business or home. They are back in full force to collect your taxes.
To be prepared, let’s walk through what to expect when an IRS Revenue Officer pays us a visit: what we should, and should not, do.
Revenue Officers purposefully select inopportune times to make their visits. As if their unexpected arrival isn’t bad enough as is, they love to arrive on Friday afternoons, Monday mornings, or right before major holidays. This rang true for our client recently when an IRS Revenue Officer came to his doorstep the Monday after Thanksgiving.
It started with a Revenue Officer ringing our client’s doorbell, introducing herself, and asking to come inside his home. I wish I had a remote and could pause this scene, as this is the first of many crucial moments when dealing with a home-visit from a Revenue Officer.
Let’s take a moment and consider how we should handle the beginning of a Revenue Officer encounter.
- The Revenue Officer does not have the legal right to enter your house. You do not have to let them in – and you should not. It may feel wrong to deny them entry, as the Revenue Officer may seem powerful and intimidating, but it is in your best interest to politely tell them “now is not a good time.”
- Along with respectfully telling the Revenue Officer that it’s not a good time for you to meet, it’s important you are accommodating to them. Be clear that you have a plan to hire an attorney, reassuring the Revenue Officer that this will assist in handling your case correctly.
- Ask the Revenue Officer for their business card, letting them know you will pass it on to your attorney. Once you hire counsel, you will no longer be “in the middle” of your case – your attorney will be the main point of communication.
Our client, however, made the mistake of falling victim to the intimidating Revenue Officer. He stepped aside and let her into his home, unprepared for her questions and powerful position. Once inside your home, the Revenue Officer can discreetly survey your belongings, valuables – they perform a mental intake of your property.
The floodgates have opened: the Revenue Officer was inside, took a seat at our client’s kitchen table, and our client found himself taking a seat across from her. The interrogation began, with her inquiring about his place of employment, home value, retirement plans, living expenses.
Next thing we know, the Revenue Officer reached into her satchel, thumbed through her already-prepared papers, and took out a pen along with IRS Form 433A, Collection Information Statement.
This is the second moment I would have loved to use that remote to pause.
- Our client began providing significant information off the top of his head as the Revenue Officer completed IRS Form 433A. This form is used to determine how your taxes can or cannot be repaid; your entire case relies on this form. Our client stated his income without formal paystubs and guessed at his living expenses. Misstating either or both can lead to the IRS wanting you to commit to a payment plan that you cannot afford.
- Rather than guess at these numbers, IRS Form 433A requires attention to detail and patience. It’s not to be filled out unexpectedly at your kitchen table on a Monday morning with a Revenue Officer you’ve just met. Your attorney is the one who should be asking these financial questions, making sure you have the correct documentation, and that IRS guidelines are being properly followed.
The pressure continued to build. After the rushed completion of Form 433A, the Revenue Officer pulled out a list of demands from IRS Form 9297, Summary of Taxpayer Contact. The IRS uses Form 9297 to set deadlines for needed documents and information; for our client, these items included his last 6 years of unfiled returns and most recent bank statements.
The Revenue Officer gave our client a two week deadline – which is a virtually impossible timeframe for these items. The kicker? She stated that if he did not meet this deadline, she would garnish his bank accounts and wages.
Undoubtedly, this is the third moment I would press “pause.”
- The Revenue Officer made IRS Form 9297 seem like a binding contract, asking him to sign the document. In reality, there is no requirement to sign this form (there is not even a line on the document designed for our signatures). Form 9297 is used to guide IRS case management, and while these deadlines are important, they can usually be negotiated.
- Even more, the Revenue Officer’s threat of garnishment was premature and extreme; in actuality, the IRS has a prerequisite legal process for garnishment, which is the Final Notice of Intent to Levy. After receiving the Final Notice of Intent to Levy, there is a 30 day waiting period in which you can file a Collection Due Process appeal, preventing the IRS from garnishing.
- Fortunately, the Revenue Officer made her threats before this 30 day time frame had even been cleared. Our client came to us in time, and we were able to file an appeal within those 30 days.
I’m glad our client called us when he did – we spoke and walked through his encounter with this Revenue Officer, and I reassured him that the Revenue Officer’s threats were extreme, and we could manage this together. Soon after, we filed the Collection Due Process appeal to protect his property, negotiated reasonable deadlines, prepared his tax returns, and properly completed Form 433A to enter into a repayment plan.
Now that IRS Revenue Officers have resumed their surprise visits to your home or place of employment, it’s best to know what to expect. You have rights, and do not need to fall victim to letting the Revenue Officer inside your home, viewing your property, and commencing an interrogation you are unprepared for. There are boundaries and laws that protect you from the IRS, and it is important that you know and understand them when dealing with a Revenue Officer.