Revenue Officers – who are they?
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) revenue officers (a/k/a ROs) are the elite members of the IRS collection force. There are thousands of revenue officers operating nationwide. Each is assigned to a particular field group of revenue officers, managed by a Group Manager, and assigned a specific geographic area. The IRS grants revenue officers absolute collection authority. This means they have the ability to send notices, make phone calls, make at-home or at-work visits, issue summons (i.e. mandatory, at IRS office meeting), issue levies (i.e. on wages, income, or bank accounts), issue liens, seize accounts receivable, initiate seizure of valuable property, etc. On the other hand, the revenue officer is given wide latitude to resolve tax liabilities by entering payment plans (i.e. Installment Agreements), placing clients into a protected status (i.e. Currently Not Collectible status), or granting extensions to full pay.
Revenue Officers – when are they assigned?
A revenue officer is assigned to a taxpayer’s case when (1) the IRS is unable to collect from the taxpayer with a back tax liability through the normal collection channels (i.e. IRS notice, levies, liens, telephone calls, etc.), (2) the taxpayer has a history of thwarting tax return compliance (i.e. has never filed), (3) the taxpayer’s tax liability is due to the failure to pay certain taxes (i.e. payroll taxes), or (4) the taxpayer’s tax liability is incredibly large.
Revenue Officers – What do they do?
A revenue officer’s number one priority is to get the taxpayer compliant and collect payment in full of the taxes owed. They have a number of tools available to them, including levies, liens, summonses, and seizure of property. Unlike representatives in the service centers or Automated Collection Service (ACS), revenue officers have an assigned, limited caseload. They are more likely to stay on top of their notices and follow through promptly with their threats of enforced collection. Revenue officers typically have more training and greater investigative authority than your average call center representative. This can be an advantage or a disadvantage to the taxpayer. On the one hand, they tend to demand more information and substantiation than ACS. On the other hand, this authority affords them increased flexibility and discretion. For a call center employee, the authority to make discretionary decisions is severely limited.
Revenue officers work in “the field” in the sense that there are territory offices all over the country. Cases are assigned to a given office depending on the residence of the taxpayer or the location of the business in the case of business accounts. Furthermore, the revenue officer will often make a field visit and actually go to the taxpayer to try to get first hand knowledge of the financial situation. If a tax account has found its way to a revenue officer, it usually means that collection efforts have been unsuccessful or unresolved at preceding collection stages.
ACS may approve an Installment Agreement or Currently Not Collectible status if the current year is not filed, if the taxpayer has been compliant the last few years and ACS does not believe that the taxpayer is going to owe for the current year. On the other hand, a revenue officer is more likely to require full tax filing compliance before resolution of a taxpayer’s case even if the taxpayer has an extension for the current year.
Revenue officers tend to be stricter with estimated tax payments and payroll deposits as well. Normally the revenue officer will not shift the focus to the financial statement until the taxpayer has demonstrated that he or she is compliant with his or her filing requirements and with current tax payment obligations.
Notices Issued by Revenue Officers
In revenue officer cases, IRS notices may come more quickly and there may be fewer. An accelerated notice schedule applies where there are unpaid business taxes, where the taxpayer has a history of delinquency, or where the dollar amount of the delinquency is particularly large.
When a revenue officer sends a letter or notice requesting documentation (such as a summons or “Summary of Contact” form), it is critical that the taxpayer make every effort to respond in a timely fashion. Resolution of the tax liability will usually also require the completion and submittal to the revenue office of a Collection Information Statement (IRS Forms 433-A and/or 433-B).
Because revenue officers are skilled at what they do, if you are ever contacted by one of them, you should speak with a tax professional regarding your case instead of communicating directly with the revenue officer.