If you have been contacted recently with regard to a tax audit or are representing taxpayers undergoing an audit, you will be interested to know that the Internal Revenue Service is pursuing every possible avenue to make things easier for both taxpayers and tax attorneys during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, face-to-face meetings will not be completed as frequently as they were before. This is because the IRS has a goal of eliminating as much unnecessary contact as possible among those who need tax audit representation, tax attorneys, and IRS agents.
Memorandum Sent to Field Agents
Field collection employees received a memorandum on July 10th which stated that the IRS plans to rely on remote contact between taxpayers and federal employees in most cases. The memo also stated that invasive audits will be kept to a minimum, and in-person meetings and field activity will be reserved for exceptional cases.
Internal Revenue Service officers typically work on cases that involve delinquent tax returns or tax debts. If a filer is affected by the pandemic, officers have the option of implementing “soft contact” procedures to get in touch with them regarding a tax audit or bill. Officers were instructed to approach the taxpayer cautiously and to consider each individual’s personal circumstances and act with empathy. Agents have also been directed to keep in mind the fatigue and stress a filer may be under due to the virus outbreak and the subsequent negativity it may have brought to their life.
Additionally, revenue officer enforcement actions have been halted in the fields, and officers and field agents must operate remotely in the meantime for everyday activities. If the taxpayer volunteers, the agent may be permitted to conduct an in-person interview if deemed appropriate and necessary by the agent’s territory manager. Authorized face-to-face meetings may include viewing the taxpayer’s assets, conducting interviews, serving a summons, and visiting their business locations or homes if no other reasonable alternatives exist.
Clear Safety Measures in Place Regarding Public Contact
Although the IRS is planning to limit in-person encounters, there may be times when such a meeting is necessary. If this is the case, IRS agents are required to wear masks or other face coverings, adhere to the guidelines put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, practice social distancing, and otherwise do everything possible to decrease the spread of COVID-19.
The memo states that agents are required to apply “good judgment” and be reasonable and prudent when deciding if public contact is truly necessary. They are instructed to use “soft contact” procedures to determine the level of impact the health crisis has had on the individual the agent plans to meet. Finally, the memo instructs revenue officers to use proper discretion to handle hardship issues and unusual situations.
If you need tax-audit help or representation, contact one of our tax attorneys for advice or to assist you if you must interact with an IRS agent.
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