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How To Know it’s Really the IRS Calling or Knocking on Your Door: Collection

Revenue officers are IRS civil enforcement employees who work cases that involve an amount owed by a taxpayer or a delinquent tax return. Their role involves education, investigation, and when necessary, appropriate enforcement.

Generally, home or business visits are unannounced because scheduling appointments for such matters would be inconsistent with their proactive and urgent nature. For example, many urgent and complex cases involve employers’ employment tax withholding requirement.

ROs carry two forms of official identification, a pocket commission and a HSPD-12 card.  The HSPD-12 card is a government-wide standard form of identification for federal employees. Both forms of identification have serial numbers and photos of the employee – and you can ask to see both. When at a home or place of business, the RO can also provide an additional method to verify their identification.

Revenue Officer Visits

You can use these tips to help you verify that the revenue officer visiting you is an IRS employee:

  • Most collection cases begin as letters (called “notices”) sent via regular mail to taxpayers because the case is unresolved. A significant number of these cases are also previously worked by the Automated Collection System – an IRS program that tries to resolve the taxpayer’s account over the phone directly with the taxpayer after a notice sent to the taxpayer was unsuccessful at resolving the situation.
     
  • A small portion of the ROs’ work involves proactive outreach to employers, called Federal Tax Deposit (FTD) Alerts. FTD Alerts are a proactive measure to address employment tax compliance prior to the liability becoming unmanageable. FTD Alerts are issued when it appears an employer is or is likely to be behind in depositing withheld employment taxes. If you receive one of these types of visits, it would be prior to the quarterly Form 941 due date. These visits may be preceded by either of the following letters:
     
    • Telephone Contact Letter – L5857: The purpose of this letter is to notify the FTD Alert employer that an initial contact will be made by phone by a specific date entered on the letter. This letter is not required prior to making initial contact in the field, but is required in those rare instances where the RO makes initial contact by phone. 
       
    • FTD Alert Field Contact Letter – L5664: This letter is used by ROs during field visits on FTD Alerts cases and the taxpayer is not present or not available. The RO will enclose the letter in a sealed envelope, addressed to the corporate officer or business owner, which explains the purpose of the field visit and request the employer contact the RO, identified in the letter, to discuss a potential decrease in federal tax deposits.
       
  • A legitimate RO is there to help you understand and meet your tax obligations, not to make threats or demand some unusual form of payment for a nonexistent liability. The RO will not demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
     
  • If you have an outstanding federal tax debt, the visiting RO will request payment but will provide a range of payment options, including paying by check that is payable to the U.S. Treasury.
     
  • If you have any concerns regarding making a payment by check, payments can be made online using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment system (EFTPS) for both personal and business taxes.

How To Report Scams

Taxpayers can use these options to report phone, email and other impersonation scams: 

  • Report impersonation scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration on the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” webpage. Taxpayers can also call 800-366-4484 to report impersonation scams.
     
  • Report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission using the FTC Complaint Assistant. Add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.
     
  • Report an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS or an IRS-related system like the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.

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