IRS Stops Unannounced Taxpayer Visits to Protect Worker Safety and Fight Fraud

WASHINGTON — ( — The Internal Revenue Service said Monday it is ending its decades-long policy of unannounced home and business visits to ensure the safety of its employees and combat scammers who pose as IRS agents.

From now on, tax agents will no longer make unscheduled visits to taxpayers’ homes and businesses, “except in a few unique circumstances,” the Treasury Department said in a statement. Instead, the agency will send people emails with meeting schedules.

“Today’s announcement is the right decision at the right time,” new IRS commissioner Daniel Werfel told reporters on Monday.

The change ends “an era at the IRS,” he said, by abolishing the practice of tax inspectors whose job it is to visit homes and businesses to settle taxpayer liabilities by collecting unpaid taxes and unfilled tax returns.

The agency has faced more threats in recent years, partly stemming from conspiracy theories that agents were going to target middle-income taxpayers more aggressively following the passage of a climate, health care, and tax bill that earmarked $80 billion to boost tax revenue.

In response, the agency last August announced a comprehensive security review of its facilities. And in May, the agency said it would begin restricting workers’ personal information when communicating with taxpayers.

Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration said in a report that he is “concerned that taxpayers and anti-government or anti-tax groups with malicious intent may be using the Internet or social media to track and identify IRS employees, their families, their homes and personal information in order to threaten, intimidate, or locate them for physical abuse.”

The National Treasury Employees’ Union, which represents IRS workers, praised the agency for stopping unannounced visits.

“The officers we represent will continue to carry out their mission of helping taxpayers meet their legal tax obligations through other means of communication effectively and efficiently,” union leader Tony Reardon said in an emailed statement.

The issue of home visiting has been politically contentious this year.

In March, Ohio House Republican Jim Jordan sent a letter to Werfel and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen asking why journalist Matt Taibbi received a surprise home visit from an IRS agent shortly after testifying on Capitol Hill regarding his Twitter research.

Werfel said he believes “the issues raised during the unannounced visits, including those brought before us by the US Congress, will be significantly mitigated” by the policy change.

The agency said the increase in scammers posing as IRS agents has also created confusion about unannounced home visits.

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