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The IRS Wants to Interview Me. What Are My Rights?

By Joel N. Crouch on August 31, 2022
It can be intimidating for any taxpayer to be contacted by the IRS, much less be interviewed by the IRS. Although I have never asked how they came to the conclusion, some of my clients have said the IRS is more intimidating than the police or FBI. Any taxpayer who is contacted by the IRS for an interview has a right to representation and although the IRS has done a poor job in letting taxpayers know this right, a recent report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) says that the IRS is getting better.

Over the years we’ve written many blog posts about TIGTA reports that were critical of how the IRS was conducting business. Every time a TIGTA report was released, I imagined the IRS Commissioner cringing, ducking for cover and awaiting a call to testify on Capitol Hill. However, on August 24th, TIGTA released a report entitled “Fiscal Year 2022 Statutory Review of Restrictions on Directly Contacting Represented Taxpayers” whereby TIGTA sought to “determine whether the Internal Revenue Service is in compliance with legal guidelines addressing the direct contact of taxpayers and their representatives set forth in the Internal Revenue Code… and the fair tax collection practices set forth in I.R.C. Section 6304(a)(2)”. For the first time in more than two decades of annual reports on this topic, TIGTA found that IRS employees abided by the rules when it came to contacting taxpayers with representatives. Hooray!!

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBOR) requires IRS personnel to inform a taxpayer of their right to request representation or to suspend or reschedule an interview. If the taxpayer asks to consult with a representative, the IRS employee must immediately stop the interview. In addition, if the taxpayer asks to speak with a representative, the IRS employee cannot bypass the representative and contact the taxpayer directly without approval from a supervisor. Prior TIGTA reports on taxpayer contact have shown that while the IRS was doing better each year, there was still substantial room for improvement. In this latest report, TIGTA examined the actions of field collection employees in the IRS Small Business/Self-Employed Division involving interactions with 105 taxpayers selected from a larger sample population between October 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021. TIGTA found no violations of direct contact procedures or fair tax collection practices. Astute readers will recognize that this time period was during the height of the COVID pandemic when most of the IRS was “working” from home and there was little direct contact with taxpayers. I’ll be interested to see the results of the next study.

Not all of the news was glowing. TIGTA did find that there was room for IRS improvement based on its testing of 20 field collection revenue officers on hypothetical situations. “While the majority of employees appeared to be familiar with the direct contact provisions and fair tax collection practices, not all revenue officers are familiar with the requirements of the provisions. We believe that the results of our interviews indicate that a reminder memorandum regarding taxpayer rights to representation would be beneficial for all Field Collection employees.”

In response to the report, IRS SB/SE Commissioner Lia Colbert said the IRS is “extremely proud of our employees’ commitment to protecting taxpayer rights” and plans to issue a memo to refresh employees on the guidelines.

If you represent taxpayers before the IRS, you probably have encountered an IRS agent who does not believe taxpayers have rights, has never read the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or just refuses to follow the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Let’s hope the memo helps.

For questions regarding this blog post or any other civil or criminal tax related matter, please feel free to contact Joel Crouch at (214) 749-2456 or jcrouch@meadowscollier.com.