The Internal Revenue Service will end most unannounced in-person visits to taxpayers in order to ‘reduce public confusion’ and improve safety for taxpayers and employees alike, the agency said Monday.
The change reverses a decades-long practice by workers at the Internal Revenue Service who routinely visited taxpayers to resolve outstanding debts and other issues. Effective immediately, the agency said, unannounced visits will end ‘except in a few unique circumstances’
Instead, affected taxpayers will receive letters in the mail prompting them to schedule an appointment.
“We are taking a fresh look at how the IRS operates to better serve taxpayers and the nation, and making this change is a common-sense step,” IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a statement. “Changing this long-standing procedure will increase confidence in our tax administration work and improve overall safety for taxpayers and IRS employees.”
Werfel also noted there have been growing security concerns in recent years, including an increase in scam artists ‘bombarding’ taxpayers that has increased confusion about home visits by IRS revenue officers. Some scam artists have even appeared at homes posing as IRS agents, ‘creating confusion for not just the taxpayers living there but local law-enforcement,’ the agency said.
As for the IRS revenue officers, Werfel said, their unannounced visits to homes and businesses were also challenging.
“These visits created extra anxiety for taxpayers already wary of potential scam artists,” Werfel said. “At the same time, the uncertainty around what IRS employees faced when visiting these homes created stress for them as well. This is the right thing to do and the right time to end it.”
Politicians have scrutinized some of the operational practices at the IRS in recent years.
Last weekend, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida) called out the agency in a tweet, sharing the link to a story about a business in the town of Stuart, Florida, that was searched by criminal investigators with the IRS earlier this month.
It was not clear what prompted the search. Representatives for Scott did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Werfel said the ageny’s decision to end most unannounced visits is part of a larger effort to transform IRS operations following passage of the Inflation Reduction Act last year.
That act, which President Joe Biden signed into law last year, allocated $80 billion to help improve the IRS’s overall digital footprint among other reforms. In April, the agency announced it would aim to hire nearly 20,000 staff over the next two years.