IRS halts most unannounced visits to taxpayers, citing safety concerns

  • The IRS on Monday halted a decadeslong practice of unannounced visits to homes or businesses to collect unpaid balances for most taxpayers.
  • The decision comes amid safety concerns from IRS employees and taxpayers, according to IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel.
  • Effective immediately, the agency will now make initial contact via mailed letters to schedule in-person meetings.
IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel speaks at a Senate Finance Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on April 19, 2023.
Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The IRS on Monday ended its controversial practice of unannounced visits to homes or businesses from agency revenue officers for most taxpayers. Part of a broader IRS overhaul, the policy change aims to lessen public confusion and improve safety.

“Starting today, if someone’s ringing your doorbell, it’s extremely unlikely to be an IRS collection employee unless you made an appointment for a home visit,” IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel told reporters on a call. “The change reverses a long-standing practice by IRS revenue officers that goes back decades.”

Previously, revenue officers — different from the revenue agents who conduct audits — visited homes and businesses unannounced to recover “substantial tax debt” with a median unpaid balance of $110,000, he said.

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The decision comes amid safety concerns from IRS employees and taxpayers, according to Werfel. “Knocking on someone’s door today is a different scenario than it was 10 or 15 years ago, and there have been significant reports from IRS employees where they have felt unsafe,” he said.

Effective immediately, the agency will now make initial contact via a mailed letter, known as a 725-B, to schedule in-person meetings with taxpayers in most cases. “We have the tools we need to successfully collect revenue without adding stress with unannounced visits,” Werfel said.

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents employees at 34 federal agencies, including IRS workers, said it supports the policy change. “Unfortunately, the hostile rhetoric and false claims about IRS employees have made their work more dangerous in recent years,” Tony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union said in a statement. Some Republicans have cited concerns about “new IRS agents” in a push to strip IRS funding.

“The revenue officers we represent will continue to efficiently and effectively carry out their mission of helping taxpayers meet their lawful tax obligations through other means of communication,” Reardon said. 

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While the policy change eliminates most unannounced visits, there are “extremely limited situations” when they could still occur, such as summonses and subpoenas or the seizure of assets. “These activities are just a drop in the bucket compared to the number of visits that have taken place in the past,” Werfel said.

There are typically a few hundred of these types of visits each year, compared to tens of thousands of unannounced visits annually under the old policy, he said.

Previously, unannounced visits were “a routine part of the job” for the agency’s revenue officers, with 100,000 cases assigned each year, Werfel said. But it’s unclear exactly how many unannounced visits occurred annually.

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