May 2, 2023

When You Might Be Contacted by the IRS

The IRS reaches out in multiple ways. Most IRS contacts will come through regular mail delivered by the USPS. When might the IRS initiate direct contact with you?

  • If you owe taxes — The agency describes the various payment options you can use to help you meet your obligations so you can pay what you owe by the tax deadline.
  • If you’re struggling to pay in full by the tax deadline — The IRS will notify you if you qualify for a payment plan, advising that you can use the IRS’s Online Payment Agreement to set up a payment plan with an installment agreement to pay off your outstanding balance over time.
  • If you’re encountering a tax issue — Do you have an unpaid bill or a question about your taxes? You’ll typically receive multiple letters in the mail from the IRS. You’re encouraged to respond to the letters quickly because interest and penalties compound quickly.

What are the limited circumstances that prompt the IRS to come to your home or business? Doing so will be part of a collection investigation, an audit or an ongoing criminal investigation.

Who are the IRS employees who make face-to-face visits outside an IRS office?

  • Revenue officers.
  • Revenue agents.
  • IRS criminal investigation special agents.

IRS employees, the IRS notes, are trained to respect your rights as a taxpayer. Here are some important facts to keep in mind about these visits:

  • You will have received multiple IRS letters in advance of a visit by a revenue officer, who is an IRS civil enforcement employee working to resolve such compliance issues as unfiled returns and/or taxes owed.
    • These visits may be unscheduled and are made to share information and inform you of your obligations, and they are basically designed to get you to file tax returns or pay what you owe. Revenue officers work with you to resolve your tax issues so you’ll be in compliance.
    • They’ll conduct interviews to gather financial information and inform you of the necessary steps to become and remain compliant with tax laws.
  • You’ll be contacted by mail or phone before revenue agents visit your home, place of business or your accountant’s office, if your financial books and records are there. Expect to see two forms of official credentials with serial numbers and photos when revenue agents conduct in-person field audits. You may request additional verification of their identity.
    • You’ll know you have a tax issue before the visits occur — multiple notices will have been mailed.
  • You’ll receive an unannounced visit by IRS criminal investigation special agents for potential criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code and related financial crimes.
    • IRS-CI special agent jurisdiction includes tax, money laundering and Bank Secrecy Act laws.
    • You can expect to see their law enforcement credentials when they come to conduct an investigation.
    • They won’t demand any sort of payment on the spot.

All this being true, you still have to be aware of impersonation scams. If you don’t have a previous tax issue and suspect someone is trying to impersonate an IRS employee, here are ways to report it:

  • Go to the website for the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and find its Report Waste, Fraud and Abuse page. Alternately, you can call 800-366-4484 to report impersonation scams.
  • Report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission at Report Fraud FTC, a website.
  • Report an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS or an IRS-related system, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.

You can obtain a comprehensive listing of recent tax scams and consumer alerts, including how to report them, by visiting Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts.

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