Revenue Officers : The 411
If you’ve reached the point in back tax liability where your assets are at risk, you will likely deal with a Revenue Officer (RO), the most senior collection agent of the IRS and an individual notoriously difficult to deal with. The IRS appoints an officer to your case with the power to issue levies and wage garnishments, seize and repossess assets, and freeze and collect financial assets, such as stocks and bonds to satisfy your tax debt. Here’s what you need to know in order to handle the situation, whether they are calling or knocking at your door.
What to Expect
First, you must be aware of the difference between a Revenue Agent and a Revenue Officer. You will most likely deal with an agent, unless you’ve committed a serious tax crime. Revenue agents do not carry guns like officers, and have limited authority. Nevertheless, RO’s are vigilant and strategic.
Expect an unannounced visit, known to occur on Fridays and/or before holiday weekends. The officer/agent will most likely arrive at your home to examine your lifestyle and belongings, or your business if your tax debt is within the realm of payroll. They will also contact you by phone or mail, before and after, and if you do not comply, you may very well be summoned to an IRS office.
Concurrently, the IRS will continue to contact you, attempting to collect the tax debt owed. If your case has been assigned to an RO, it is unlikely that resolution will be found unless you pay your debt in full. They may request additional financial information to analyze and determine the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of collectibility. If this occurs, you will receive Form 9297, which contains Form 433-A if you’re an individual, or Form 433-B for businesses. These forms have a deadline.
At this juncture, or well before, depending on how the IRS chooses to carry out the events, you should contact a tax professional to assist you in filling out the forms correctly; the IRS can and will use this information against you. A tax professional can also discuss your financial situation with the RO and potentially obtain an extension for you.
How to Handle It
Prior to arriving at your business or residence, abide by the above guidelines. If they are at your door, the same follows; you are under no obligation to answer their questions and often, you won’t know the answers. Although a force to be dealt with, the officer/agent does not have the right to enter your residence. Simply tell them you will contact whomever you appoint as your power of attorney and you will be back shortly. They may oblige and speak to them on the spot. In the case that you are unable to contact a professional, explain that you are in the process of getting representation, taking down their name, ID, and the details pertaining to your case.
It is important to withhold any and all information asked of you and certainly, be polite. The wrong information can be extremely damaging to your finances and property. The officer/agent has the mindset of collecting your debt by whatever means necessary; this means being very friendly, and attempting to lure you into comfort to share your personal information. You will not anger IRS employees or worsen your situation by hiring a professional; it is absolutely appropriate, necessary, and within your right.
Failure to comply with a Revenue Officer will make your life extremely difficult, beyond the debt you owe. It is a mistake to believe that the RO will go away, in the same way you cannot evade your tax debt. Stay calm, be cordial, and contact a tax professional immediately to settle your debt within your means.