Meet the IRS: What Is a Revenue Agent?

The IRS makes for a pretty disappointing pen pal.

If you’ve ever dealt with them, you know what we’re talking about. When you’re struggling with a major tax debt, an audit defense, or an IRS wage garnishment or tax levy, most communication with the IRS is stressful, to say the least.

The letters you receive and the phone calls you take are imminent reminders of the seriousness of your tax issues. They can strike fear into your heart and drive you to inaction, as your tax debt molehill turns into a mountain and your path to financial freedom starts to seem narrower and narrower.

The same goes for your first IRS audit. It’s scary to learn the IRS has decided to audit you, even when you believe you’ve done everything right! And the moment you meet your first IRS representative, your fears get a lot more real.

Should you ever come into contact with a representative of the IRS, it’s important you feel confident in your knowledge about what they can—and can’t—do.

That’s why we’re here, to answer the questions you have about the different types of IRS representatives. We’ll walk you through some basic questions about IRS revenue agents, their purpose, and how to deal with them (aside from calling us, of course).

What is an IRS revenue agent?

In many ways, revenue agents are a lot like accountants. They are the primary representatives of the IRS that deal with audits of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits. Their focus on assessment, financial review, and the audit process sets them apart from IRS revenue officers, which primarily deal with the enforcement and collection of serious tax debts.

When does the IRS send a revenue agent?

Because revenue agents mostly perform audits, the IRS is most likely to send a revenue agent when you’ve been audited. No big surprises there!

Contrary to popular belief, most audits are triggered by computers, not humans. These computers look for inconsistencies or abnormalities in filed tax returns:

Some audits are triggered by bad math or unclear spelling, while others may simply be triggered because your business used a vendor that had issues with their tax return and was also recently audited. Of course, missing or incorrect income totals, offshore banking, and tax evasion practices may land you with an audit, too.

However, a triggered audit doesn’t always result in an IRS revenue agent showing up at your business or home. You’ll hear from the IRS by mail, notifying you that you’ve been audited and providing instructions about next steps. IRS audits can be scary, but you can resolve most of them easily: sending in an amended return, making corrections, or providing clarification.

What does an auditor do when they visit?

When an auditor visits, their goal is to get a clear picture of you or your business’s finances. They may be looking to verify information you provided on a tax return, such as proof of a dependent you claimed on your tax return or even the exact dimensions of a home office you deducted as a business expense.

Of course, the review may be more extensive, as it often is for businesses that have been audited. A review might take a days or weeks and involve a deep dive to verify the financial statements are in line with the filed tax return. Of course, audits can also be much more serious. They often result not from mistakes or lack of documentation, but from a crime, like tax evasion.

What should I do if a revenue agent visits?

As soon as you receive a notice of your audit from the IRS, you should enlist help from a tax specialist or tax attorney.

In common cases, a tax professional can help you navigate the process and correspond with the IRS on your behalf. In more serious cases, they can provide legal guidance or even be present during your field audit.

Meet an auditor? It’s time to get help.

Yes, audits are scary—even the simple ones. And yes, they shouldn’t have to be.

Regardless of what triggered your audit, you should enlist a team to ensure you get the best outcome possible. Whether you end up owing money, amending your return, or dealing with something far more serious—we’re always here for you. Get in touch with us today, and we’ll take it from there.

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