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How Does the IRS Contact Taxpayers?

Posted by: Zaher Fallahi
Posted On: Aug 07, 2017

How Does the IRS Contact Taxpayers?

When the IRS needs to contact a taxpayer, the first contact is normally by letter delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. The IRS doesn’t normally initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels. Depending on the situation, IRS employees may first call or visit with a taxpayer. In some instances, advance notice is provided in writing via a letter or notice, but not always.


IRS Phone Calls

1- IRS revenue officers work directly with taxpayers to educate them about their options to resolve delinquent filing and collect delinquent taxes, while protecting taxpayers’ rights.


2- IRS employees may call a taxpayer or tax professional after mailing a notice to confirm an appointment or to discuss items for a scheduled audit.


3- Private debt collectors can call taxpayers for the collection of certain outstanding inactive tax liabilities but only after the taxpayer and their representative has received written notice. Private debt collectors for the IRS must respect taxpayers’ rights and abide by the consumer protection provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.


IRS Visits

1- IRS revenue officers routinely make unannounced visits to a taxpayer’s home or place of business to discuss taxes owed, delinquent tax returns or a business falling behind on paying payroll taxes. IRS revenue officers will request payment of taxes owed by the taxpayer; however, payment will never be requested to a source other than the US Treasury.


Comment: Generally, the IRS employees are nice people. However, about 15 years ago an IRS agent had visited a dentist client of ours in Orange County and threatened to put him in jail if not paid delinquent taxes. I invited the agent to my office and advised him that he had no legal authority to threaten a taxpayer, and he went away. Client was on an installment plan and had fallen behind.


2- IRS revenue agents usually visit taxpayers or tax professionals to conduct the audit after either mailing a notice and/or agreeing on the day and time. IRS revenue agents will sometimes make unannounced visits to a taxpayer’s home or place of business to discuss a tax matter.


3- IRS criminal investigators are federal law enforcement agents who may visit a taxpayer’s home or place of business unannounced while conducting an investigation. They will not demand any sort of payment.


Comment: About 12 years ago, an IRS agent had travelled to the home of a friend of mine (who also happened to be a tax attorney, CPA) on a Sunday afternoon, questioning him on certain tax evasion matters unrelated to my friend. Sometimes these are special agents from the Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS. In the event this happens to you, be calm and courteous to them (generally, hold gold badges and travel in pairs, sometimes at night), obtain their business cards and tell them your lawyer will contact them. Last year, two clients of our in Los Angeles were visited by such special agents, and I call the agents the very next day and resolved the matters thereafter. Some of these cases arise from suspicious fund deposits in your bank accounts.


Ask For Credentials

IRS representatives can always provide two forms of official credentials: a pocket commission and a Personal Identity Verification Credential (PIV). Pocket commissions describe the specific authority and responsibilities of the authorized holder. The PIV is a government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification for federal employees and contractors. Criminal investigators also have a badge and law enforcement credentials.


Paying Taxes

All tax payments are to the U.S. Treasury and taxpayers should never use a preloaded debit card or wire transfer to make a payment. The IRS provides specific guidelines on how to make a tax payment at irs.gov/payments.



IRS employees and contractors will never:


1- Be hostile or insulting


2- Demand payment without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount


3- Require a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card.

Comment: A few months ago, a fraudster had called our client and had asked her to go to certain store and make the payment right away. She did not owe any taxes, and I advised him to disregard the threat.


4- Threaten lawsuits, arrest, deportation or other action for not paying.

Comment: Three years ago, another fraudster had called and threatened to put another Los Angeles client of ours in jail, unless made payment as instructed immediately. Upon discussion with the client, I determined the caller to be a scammer and advised the client to ignore the threat. Recently, I have had numerous such scam cases.


5- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.


Avoid scams

The IRS never initiates contact using social media or text messages. First contact generally comes through the US mail.  A special page on IRS.gov, “How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door,”  helps taxpayers determine if a person claiming to be from the IRS is legitimate or an imposter.


Zaher Fallahi, Tax Attorney, CPA,  assist taxpayers including Americans Living Abroad, in resolving their tax problems and undisclosed foreign bank accounts; FBAR, FATCA and Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP).  Telephones: (310) 719-1040 (Los Angeles), (714) 546-4272 (Orange County), e-mail taxattorney@zfcpa.com