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IRS ends most unannounced home visits over safety and scam concerns — union blames 'dangerous' working conditions on 'false, inflammatory rhetoric about the agency'
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

IRS ends most unannounced home visits over safety and scam concerns — union blames 'dangerous' working conditions on 'false, inflammatory rhetoric about the agency'

On Monday, the Internal Revenue Service said it would no longer conduct most unannounced home visits over safety and scam concerns. The agency carved out exceptions for "a few unique circumstances."

The IRS explained that the "major policy change" aims to "reduce public confusion and enhance overall safety measures for taxpayers and employees."

For decades, unarmed IRS revenue officers would visit homes and businesses unannounced "to help taxpayers resolve their account balances by collecting unpaid taxes and unfiled tax returns."

Instead of visiting taxpayers, the IRS plans to send mailed letters to schedule face-to-face meetings with revenue officers.

"We are taking a fresh look at how the IRS operates to better serve taxpayers and the nation, and making this change is a common-sense step," IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said. "Changing this long-standing procedure will increase confidence in our tax administration work and improve overall safety for taxpayers and IRS employees."

According to Werfel, in addition to safety concerns, the agency has noticed an increase in scam artists pretending to be IRS agents conducting unannounced home visits.

"Sometimes scam artists appear at the door posing as IRS agents, creating confusion for not just the taxpayers living there but local law-enforcement," the agency explained.

Werfel stated that the policy change would calm taxpayers' anxiety about scam artists and reduce stress for revenue officers.

"We have the tools we need to successfully collect revenue without adding stress with unannounced visits," he added. "The only losers with this change in policy are scammers posing as the IRS."

The agency noted that some "rare instances" will still require revenue officers to show up unannounced, including "service of summonses and subpoenas" as well as "sensitive enforcement activities involving seizure of assets, especially those at risk of being placed beyond the reach of the government."

The IRS claimed the new policy would bring unannounced visits down from tens of thousands to a few hundred annually.

The National Treasury Employees Union supported the decision, blaming the "dangerous" working conditions on "false, inflammatory rhetoric about the agency and its workforce."

"NTEU welcomes the IRS decision to halt unannounced visits by IRS Field Collection employees," NTEU President Tony Reardon stated. "We applaud Commissioner Werfel's quick action after hearing the safety concerns raised by NTEU leaders and IRS Field Collection employees who faced dangerous situations that put their safety at risk. We look forward to working with the IRS on this and other actions to protect the safety of all IRS employees."

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