There is no shortage of jokes to be found when it comes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and dealing with its representatives. In reality, dealing with the IRS is no laughing matter.
Running afoul of the IRS can result in serious punishments and vastly impact your life. The IRS has the power to garnish your wages, seize your home or business, freeze bank accounts, and jeopardize your future by withdrawing funds from retirement accounts.
Unfortunately, very few people know how to deal with the IRS. It’s not exactly something that is taught in public education, after all, though we would argue that it should be public knowledge. Understanding the difference between IRS agents vs. officers can help you learn more about the different representatives and your rights when dealing with aggressive agents.
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, such as embezzlement. Ideally, you’ll never come into contact with an IRS Special Agent.
You’re more likely to encounter revenue agents and revenue officers. There are differences between these roles as well, and it’s a good idea to know what they are—especially if a representative of the IRS shows up looking for you.
IRS Revenue Agents: Crunching the Numbers
The main objective of a revenue agent is to conduct audits. These agents are not involved with the collection of tax debt—they’re simply there to assess the amount owed, particularly if an audit notice has been issued. IRS agents carry blue and white plastic photo IDs, and usually show up at businesses rather than homes.
Generally speaking, IRS revenue agents come across as less aggressive than officers. Though no one enjoys getting audited, IRS agents have limited power. They can gather the evidence they need to conduct an audit, but there is no threat of having them demand your money or assets.
When dealing with IRS agents, it is best to remain professional, polite, and courteous. You should never agree to anything, but you should accommodate their requests for documentation.
Many people get audited every year, and the matter is settled without any other complications. Just because you are being audited does not mean that you are guilty of anything, after all. Often, it is simply a fancy term for the IRS to explain that they need to conduct a more thorough investigation to make sure that taxes were filed correctly.
It never hurts to seek representation while dealing with a revenue agent auditing you. Though IRS agents are relatively harmless, having a knowledgeable professional in your corner goes a long way. Additionally, a tax professional can take over many of the responsibilities of dealing with an audit that might otherwise consume your time and pull you away from business interests or family.
IRS Revenue Officers: Collecting the Bills
Like 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.
Revenue officers attempt 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 efforts 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.
There is no doubt that IRS officers are far more intimidating and uncomfortable to deal with personally. Depending on the personality of the officer, you may encounter one that is extremely aggressive and pressing with their demands. However, you have rights and need to stand your ground.
IRS officers may garnish wages, file tax liens and levies, and make other demands that can leave you feeling helpless and overwhelmed. It is especially uncomfortable when they show up at your place of employment without notice or attempt to harass you in front of family and friends at your private residence. If you have not already employed the help of a tax professional, now is the time to consider legal representation.
Does the IRS Have Officers?
As we mentioned, the IRS employs officers who assume different roles and responsibilities compared to agents. Special Agents are the most aggressive and act as the police force of the tax agency. Meanwhile, regular tax agents handle most of the grunt work and don’t have a lot of control or power to take aggressive actions.
IRS officers have a reputation of being more aggressive and demanding with their orders. While a tax lien or levy does legally give them a lot of control over your bank account funds, assets, and property, there are steps they need to take before that is even legally acceptable.
Furthermore, the IRS cannot seize assets that result in an undue hardship. It means that your home or personal vehicle which you use every day to commute to and from work is protected from IRS seizure. By law, the IRS cannot force you into a difficult corner where there is no escape and you are going to struggle to make ends meet for you and your family.
However, more aggressive officers may attempt to manipulate or take advantage of the situation. Those that are not aware of their rights or the legal limits of IRS officers may be subjected to bullying or harassment. Consequently, you need to not only make yourself aware of your rights, but also seriously consider legal representation for assistance dealing with officers.
Do IRS Agents Come to Your House?
IRS officers may legally visit your home, while IRS agents tend to keep it more professional and only try to meet you at a business. Just the thought of a representative from the U.S. government showing up at your place of residence, making demands, and threatening to seize your prized possessions is incredibly worrisome and stressful to most. While it is uncomfortable to deal with an IRS officer in any situation, doing so at your place of employment can feel a little less threatening.
Your future is at stake when you deal with an IRS agent, especially at your private residence. If you feel pressured or threatened in any regard, you should contact a tax professional immediately. Finding a solution to get out of tax debt in a reasonable manner that doesn’t involve tax levies is critical. Reach out to a tax professional immediately if you have received a Final Notice of Levy from the IRS.
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 a debt. For example, IRS collections can’t result in undue hardship, and certain assets 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 interest to hire a tax resolution firm to represent you, rather than attempting to deal 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. Therefore, if 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. The tax professionals at Levy & Associates are ready and willing to help.
If you have any questions and would like to speak to someone from our A+ BBB rated staff, please click on the link below or call us at 888-411-LEVY (5389).