Common questions about IRS Revenue Officers and Agents



What is an IRS Revenue Officer?


An IRS Revenue Officer is a field agent employed by the IRS. Their job is to collect taxes. They do this by running asset checks and interviewing you, and third parties if they can not make contact with you. They are civil employees. They do not carry guns and can not arrest you. Their badge is generally a plastic lanyard.



Can an IRS Revenue Officer or IRS Revenue Agent come to my house or business unannounced?


An IRS Collections Agent is required by law to make first contact in person. This means no warning call. They show up in person. Part of this is to make sure you know they are not just posing as Revenue Officers. The other part, frankly, is to alarm you into taking action.


An IRS Revenue Agent is different. A Revenue Agent is in charge of field audits or exams. Typically notices that you are under examination are sent to you prior to a field agent scheduling a time to visit you at your home or business.



The IRS showed came to my door? The IRS showed up at my business. What do I do?


When the IRS shows up to your house it means that your matter is fairly serious. The IRS has a very limited amount of field officers (half of what they did in 2010). So there must have been a compelling reason why your were assigned an IRS collections agent. If you have someone helping you with this tax matter, it would be a great time to decide if your current representative is up to the task, or if you need more robust representation.


If you do not have a tax issue yourself, it is possible the IRS officer or agent wants to interview you about the actual target of their collections. Some people prefer to get a legal opinion before giving any testimony to an IRS employee.

And IRS field agent or officer left a business card or note on my door. What should I do?


On the card you will see a local phone number and address. That is the contact information for the Revenue Officer. Typically, a card left on your front door means you have a tax debt or are being assessed for the possible underpayment of employee withholding. We do not advise contacting an IRS employee yourself. All IRS agents represent the government, not you.



Why would an IRS Revenue Officer show up my my business?


Most of the time an IRS Revenue Officer will go to a business for unpaid employee taxes and withholdings. The IRS make first contact to determine who is responsible for the underpayment. A Revenue Officer seeks to assess the taxes, which are called the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty (TFRP), against as many people as possible. This means that others, aside from the business owner, may have a risk. Controllers and others who manage the company’s finances are at risk for a TFRP assessment. Sometimes this is when a business owner finds out that an employee was embezzling money.


I have a meeting with a Revenue Officer. What are they going to do?


Most likely, determine your ability to pay. If there are unpaid employee taxes, they will likely investigate you for an unpaid TFRP assessment. Again, a Revenue Officer showing up at a business is generally fairly serious. We recommend getting the best representation you can afford. Thinking the IRS will take it easy on you can be a terrible mistake.


What are the general powers of an IRS Revenue Officer?


A Revenue Officer can summon records, interview third parties about you, file liens against you, or issues levies. They can commence seizure proceedings against you, and your customers, without a court order.


A Revenue Officer cannot arrest you or investigate you criminally. However a Revenue Officer can refer you to the IRS Criminal Investigation Divisions.


Does an IRS Revenue Officer or Agent have a gold badge?


No. Revenue Agents and Officers typically have plastic government IDs, often worn on a lanyard. If you see an agent with a gold badge, that is typically a US Treasury Special Agent of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division. Special Agents do carry guns and do have the ability to criminally investigate you or place you under arrest.


What my IRS Revenue Officer's phone number?


Look at the IRS business card left for you. Or find any letters or notices the Revenue Officer sent you. Your Internal Revenue Officer will have a local address or local phone number. If you only see an 800 number or a generic address not local to you, those notices and letters are not from your Revenue Officer. If you call the numbers, they will likely not be able to help. We deal with Collection Field Offices around the nation so usually we know the best contact number. And we deal with many of the same Revenue Officers again and again!


Doesn’t it make me look “guilty" if I hire a law firm to help me with a tax problem?


We have dealt with many honest, decent Revenue Officers over the years. The best ones have confided in us with something like “I am glad the taxpayer hired you. There are things I would advise them to do, but I can’t because I represent the government, and I am not allowed to give legal advice. It makes me feel better they are being taken care of.”


The best revenue officers  and agents want you to be represented. And the the worst, you need representation for.



But wouldn’t hiring an expert be a waste of time and money?


Regrets are a waste of time and money. And sometimes the biggest regrets taxapyers have is believing the word of an IRS employee.


We are often told by new clients “A Revenue Officer told me it would be a waste of money to hire you. I owe them money. Any money I pay you is money that I could have used to pay my taxes.”


But luckily, they didn't fall for it.  They knew they needed someone 100% on their side.


Again, the best Revenue Officers wants you to succeed with a reasonable collection alternative. But they cannot be your advocate, nor can they give you legal advice. Many of them do not enjoy mowing over taxpayers. They wish you would get legal representation but they can’t make you. The Revenue Officers are bound to be silent to any legal advice that could help you.