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IRS Agents Getting Too Big For Their Britches

By Joel N. Crouch on July 20, 2023
My mother was born and raised in the New England area, but spent the majority of her adult life in Texas. She quickly adopted southern phrases and words, like “don’t forget your raisin’”, “ya’ll”, “he’s got a burr in his saddle”, “you’re lower than a snake’s belly”, “I’m busier than a one-armed paper hanger with an itch”, “bless her heart”, “that dog won’t hunt”, and when speaking about someone’s lack of intelligence, “the porch light’s on, but no one’s home.” When my siblings or I got too full of ourselves, my mother would say we were “getting too big for our britches”.

It appears Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee think that IRS agents are “getting too big for their britches.” In a July 18 letter to IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel the lawmakers asked for information about three separate allegations of IRS agent misconduct. The three matters include a March 9 unannounced visit to the home of journalist Matt Taibbi, a June 14 seizure of information from a gun shop in Great Falls, Montana by armed IRS agents and, most troubling, an April 25 visit by an IRS agent, using an alias “Bill Haus,” to the home of a taxpayer in Ohio under dubious circumstances.

According to a Wall Street Journal article regarding the April 25 visit:

On April 25 a Marion, Ohio taxpayer received a visit from a man who claimed his name was “Bill Haus” and worked in the IRS criminal division.

Mr. Haus said he needed to talk to her about an estate for which she was the fiduciary. She let him in despite having received no prior IRS communication. Mr. Haus claimed she had not properly filled out estate forms and owed the IRS “a substantial amount.” Only when the taxpayer presented proof of paying all taxes on the estate did the agent reveal that his visit wasn’t about the estate at all. It was about several supposed delinquent tax returns related to the decedent of the estate.

The letter says the taxpayer called her attorney, who insisted Mr. Haus leave the house, only to be told by Mr. Haus: “I am an IRS agent, I can be at and go into anyone’s house at any time I want to be.” Mr. Haus finally left, but not before threatening to freeze the taxpayer’s assets and put a lien on her house if she didn’t satisfy the balance in a week. Fearing a scam, she called the local police, who ran Mr. Haus’s license plate to verify his identity.

When an officer called Mr. Haus, Mr. Haus identified himself as an IRS agent but said Haus wasn’t his real name. He had used an alias. The officer, also suspecting a scam, warned that if he returned to the taxpayer’s home he’d be arrested. Mr. Haus then filed a complaint against the Marion police officer with the Treasury Department inspector general.

On May 4 the taxpayer spoke with Mr. Haus’s supervisor, who clarified that she owed nothing and said—in the understatement of the year—that “things never should have gotten this far.” Yet the following day, the taxpayer received a letter—addressed to the decedent—stating that the decedent was delinquent on several 1040 filings. This was the first and only mail notification the taxpayer received. The taxpayer was again told by the supervisor that nothing was owed and was notified on May 30 that the case was closed.

In a separate letter the lawmakers urged Inspector General J. Russell George to open an investigation of the “Bill Haus” incident.

In my 35 years of representing taxpayers before the IRS, the vast majority of people at the IRS have been great to work with. But I have run into some that my mother would say were “getting too big for their britches”. One of the IRS tactics is to scare taxpayers because many taxpayers don’t understand what rights they have and don’t understand that they can push back. For example, most taxpayers don’t know that they can refuse to extend the statute of limitations if they are asked to do so by the IRS. That is why any business or person who is dealing with an IRS issue should hire or consult with an experienced tax advisor familiar with IRS procedures.

For questions regarding this blog post or any other civil or criminal tax related matter, please feel free to contact me at jcrouch@meadowscollier.com.