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Citing agent safety, IRS ends unannounced visits


Photo: Skyhobo/iStockphoto

Washington — Internal Revenue Service personnel will no longer make unannounced visits to businesses or households, except in certain circumstances.

Announced on July 24, the agency’s policy change stems, in large part, from concerns about revenue officers’ safety and to thwart scammers posing as IRS agents.

“These visits created extra anxiety for taxpayers already wary of potential scam artists,” IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a press release. “At the same time, the uncertainty around what IRS employees faced when visiting these homes created stress for them as well. This is the right thing to do and the right time to end it.

“We have the tools we need to successfully collect revenue without adding stress with unannounced visits. The only losers with this change in policy are scammers posing as the IRS.”

For decades, IRS revenue officers sought to resolve issues such as unpaid taxes or unfiled tax returns by visiting households or businesses. Now, the agency will send taxpayers letters to schedule meetings. The officers will make visits only to service summonses and subpoenas, or for “sensitive enforcement activities involving seizure of assets, especially those at risk of being placed beyond the reach of government.”

Those activities take place “less than a few hundred” times a year, the agency says – “a small fraction compared to the tens of thousands of unannounced visits that typically occurred annually under the old policy.”

Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said Werfel’s “quick action” after hearing the safety concerns raised by the union’s leaders and members “will help protect those whose jobs have only grown more dangerous in recent years because of false, inflammatory rhetoric about the agency and its workforce.”

He added, “We look forward to working with the IRS on this and other actions to protect the safety of all IRS employees.”

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