The IRS is taking to the streets to track down high-income earners who aren’t filing federal income tax returns or paying taxes.
A new step in an ongoing effort involves making roughly 800 face-to-face visits in the next two months to high-income individuals who haven’t filed tax returns in 2018 or previous years. The IRS estimates that billions are being lost in tax dollars, thanks to high-income non-filers. Thousands of other visits across the country are expected throughout the year.
The goal is to engage with delinquent, non-filers who have not responded to multiple IRS notices. The move would be before the IRS would place a legal claim against property to secure payment of a tax debt.
The unscheduled, unannounced visits are reportedly across the country and not focused on any specific geographic area.
Those being targeted are reported to have annual incomes in excess of $100,000 during a tax year and did not file a tax return with the IRS. Those who would get a face-to-face visit also have avoided earlier correspondence from the IRS to straighten out the delinquency. The taxpayer may have failed to file one or more of their tax returns.
“These visits should not come as a surprise, will not come as a surprise, to the taxpayer,” said Hank Kea, director of field collection operations for the IRS small business/self employed division.
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The Internal Revenue Service said it’s going after some of the “most egregious” cases and assigning highly trained enforcement officers to talk directly to the taxpayer and open discussions about various options for how to pay the bill.
“This is now a specifically assigned case,” Kea said.
Kea said in some cases appointments may be made in advance to meet with the taxpayer.
“These visits are primarily aimed at informing these taxpayers of their filing and paying obligations and bringing these taxpayers into compliance,” according to an IRS news release.
In addition, the IRS said it is increasing its use of data analytics, research and new compliance strategies, to reach taxpayers and tax return preparers who have not filed federal tax returns.
Taxpayers, of course, need to remember that third parties, such as their employer, share information with the IRS and can give a clue to those who may make a significant amount of money that they’ve not paid taxes on at this point.
The IRS is also using a system to hold an individual’s income tax refund when their account has at least one unfiled tax return within five years surrounding that return.
To be sure, these visits are being introduced at a time when scammers love to pretend they’re from the IRS.
Most IRS revenue officers will visit taxpayers at unannounced times, according to the IRS. But they would always provide two forms of official credentials that have a serial number and a photo of the IRS employee. The real IRS employee also would be able to go into great detail about the specific issue facing the taxpayer.
The legitimate revenue officer would explain the what kind of money is owed, as well as the consequences of failing to comply with the law. But a legitimate officer is not going to threaten you with an immediate arrest or demand that you go out and put money on gift cards, which can be easily exploited by con artists.
If someone has an outstanding federal tax debt, the IRS said, the visiting officer will request payment but then provide a range of options, including writing a check to the U.S. Treasury.
Taxpayers face an April 15 deadline to file their 2019 tax returns. Sometimes, IRS officials said, people don’t file a return because they’re worried that they owe money for taxes and they don’t know how they’ll be able to afford to pay it. Maybe they lost a job. Maybe, they faced high medical bills.
Yet, the IRS said taxpayers are better off filing a timely return instead of skipping filing completely.
“Compliance issues simply don’t get better with age,” Kea said.