IRS: Agents vs. Officers
Why you need to know the difference
Not all IRS representatives are the same. This doesn't refer to their personalities (which, despite popular jokes, aren't all the same either), but rather to the types of jobs they hold within the IRS, and the duties associated with those jobs.
The top-level IRS employees are Special Agents (SAs), the “police force” of the IRS. These agents carry badges and firearms, and investigate tax crimes like embezzlement. Hopefully, you'll never deal with an IRS Special Agent.
You're more likely to encounter revenue agents and revenue officers. There are differences between them, and it's a good idea to know which one does what job—especially if a representative of the IRS shows up looking for you.
IRS revenue agents: Crunching the numbers
The main purpose of a revenue agent is to conduct audits. IRS agents carry blue and white plastic photo IDs, and usually show up at businesses rather than homes. These agents are not involved with collection of tax debt—they're simply there to assess the amount owed, particularly if an audit notice has been issued.
IRS revenue officers: Collecting the bills
Similarly to agents, revenue officers use blue-and-white plastic photo ID cards to identify themselves, but their duties are different. The job of a revenue officer is to locate taxpayers who owe money to the IRS, and attempt to collect on back taxes.
The goal of a revenue officer is to collect tax debt as quickly as possible, in the fullest possible amount. IRS officers may visit your home or place of employment in their attempts to collect (usually after an audit letter has already been sent out). They're authorized to levy bank accounts, garnish wages, or file federal tax liens, and may even seize your assets to cover the debt.
Know your rights
Whether you're dealing with a revenue agent or a revenue officer, you have certain rights as a taxpayer. Being aware of those rights can help you deal with an officer that may be somewhat forceful in attempting to collect debt. For example, IRS collections can't result in undue hardship, and there are certain assets that are exempt from being seized.
If you are approached by a revenue agent or revenue officer, the experience can be unsettling and confusing. It's often in your best interests to hire a tax resolution firm to represent you, rather than dealing with the situation yourself.
Tax resolution specialists have a strong understanding of your rights as a taxpayer, and are often able to negotiate arrangements with IRS revenue officers and agents that will protect your property and prevent financial hardship.
You have the right to (politely) inform any revenue agent officer that you're seeking representation to resolve your tax debt—as long as it's the truth. Therefore, in the event that you are confronted by an IRS officer, it's essential to contact a tax resolution specialist right away once you've stated that you're looking for representation.
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