When dealing with the IRS, it can seem challenging to determine who you are corresponding with and what powers they have. However, for the normal taxpayer, it is remarkably simple. Taxpayers will usually correspond with three different players within the IRS. These include revenue officers, revenue agents and special agents.
Revenue officers help the IRS by collecting taxes that have already been assigned. Their civil responsibility is to collect unpaid taxes before they fall further into arrears. This process often involves calling or meeting with taxpayers directly. If taxpayers do not pay, revenue officers have the ability to file liens and levies against property, wages or bank accounts.
Revenue agents serve the IRS by auditing tax returns. They examine returns for unreported income and to search for deductions that cannot be substantiated by taxpayers. If taxpayers cannot support the numbers which they reported, they will be required to pay the full difference in taxes, as well as any interest and penalties.
Both revenue officers and revenue agents work as advocates under the IRS. Their civil duty is to resolve tax cases legally and fairly. Neither revenue officers nor revenue agents are required to inform taxpayers of their legal rights, since the information they are examining is for civil use only. These employees work tirelessly to settle cases and keep them out of litigation and appeals. Thus, tax-preparers and CPAs know that it is important to work well with them.
The last type of IRS employee is a special agent. Special agents are assigned to cases if there are signs of willful and serious tax-evasion or fraud. If a special agent is assigned to an incident, it is considered a criminal investigation. Any and all information that is provided to special agents can be used as evidence against the taxpayer. Thus, CPAs and other financial professionals are careful to protect client’s rights. These include the right against self-incrimination, as well as the right against unlawful searches.
All of these workers are employed by the IRS, but the scope of their authority varies widely. If taxpayers are audited, have large amounts of unpaid taxes, or receive correspondence from the Revenue Service and are unsure of the allegations, they should contact a financial professional immediately. Many times, a CPA can examine the circumstances, work through any confusion and help resolve the situation without legal proceedings.