The IRS will ban surprise visits to homes and businesses

The IRS will ban surprise visits to homes and businesses

The Internal Revenue Service said Monday it would curb the practice of sending agents to make surprise visits to homes and businesses, undercutting a policy that has been a center of its efforts to collect unpaid taxes for decades amid political backlash and mounting threats to its employees.

The change comes as the IRS is launching a multibillion-dollar modernization project aimed at upgrading technology, speeding up implementation of the tax code and improving customer service. It also coincides with growing scrutiny of the tax collection agency, which has faced criticism from Republicans over perceptions of political bias and taxpayers’ claims that its tactics are overly aggressive.

“We are taking a fresh look at how the IRS works to better serve taxpayers and the nation, and this change is a common sense step,” IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel said in a statement. “Changing this longstanding process will increase confidence in the work of our tax administration and improve overall protection for taxpayers and IRS employees.”

The agency is trying to introduce a more customer-centric approach to taxpayers, while Republicans are raising fears that the tax collector is hiring an army of 87,000 new agents to shake up small businesses and the middle class. Hostility towards the IRS has made the job of its agents more dangerous; Last year, the agency launched a comprehensive security review after employees received threats due to misinformation and false postings on social media.

The IRS said Monday that unannounced visits would continue only in certain “unique” circumstances and would be replaced with letters usually mailed to set up meetings.

The agency typically conducts thousands of unannounced visits to homes and businesses each year and will continue to do so only in cases involving subpoenas and subpoenas or seizure of property. The IRS said that these types of cases typically happen less than a few hundred times per year.

It employs about 2,000 people unarmed revenue officer who usually make unannounced visits to discuss outstanding taxes or missing returns. Sometimes they make trips without warning if they think a business may be behind on withheld employment taxes or behind in debt collection.

Republicans have made it a priority to block the Biden administration’s plans to bolster the IRS with $80 billion given last year as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. He successfully cut $1.4 billion of the agency’s funding in debt ceiling legislation passed by Congress in June and reached an agreement to withdraw $20 billion as part of a final budget deal that lawmakers are expected to pass this year.

In recent months, lawmakers and anti-tax groups like Americans for Tax Reform have been raising questions about unannounced visits from IRS agents. As an example of redundancy, he pointed to a raid on a gun store in Montana in June — Where agents seized personal information of gun owners and buyers — and a visit by agents to the Florida offices of investor Jeffrey Gundlach in April, which was apparently result of clerical error,

Mr Werfel suggested that ending unannounced visits was a response to the prevalence of scammers posing as agents. This has created additional worry for the taxpayers and more stress for the revenue officials, he added.

“We have the tools needed to successfully collect revenue without increasing the strain with unannounced visits,” Mr. Werfel said, adding that the improved analytics will allow the agency to reach its compliance goals. “The only losers from this change in policy are fraudsters such as the IRS”

Tony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said the decision to stop unannounced field trips was welcome.

“The safety of IRS employees is paramount,” he said, “and this decision will help protect those whose jobs have become more at risk in recent years due to false, inflammatory rhetoric about the agency and its workforce.”

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