Why the IRS Shouldn't Literally Be Knocking at Your Door

The IRS is changing a longstanding practice that involved collecting tax debts through tens of thousands of unannounced home visits.

front door with bag of grocerties on the porch for the IRS knocking story
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The IRS won’t likely be making unannounced home visits to collect unpaid taxes as they have for years. The decision to change the practice of showing up at taxpayers' houses without notice has been described by IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel as a "common-sense step." 

Previously, revenue officers might have conducted tens of thousands of unannounced visits to taxpayers’ homes, according to the IRS. Now, as the agency eliminates most of those visits, that number is expected to drop, considerably, to a few hundred per year.

In a statement issued Monday, Werfel, who also cited security and safety concerns as reasons for changing the approach, said the “visits created extra anxiety for taxpayers already wary of potential scam artists.” 

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

In most cases, under the new policy, the IRS will issue what it calls a 725-B appointment letter so that taxpayers can schedule a face-to-face meeting. Enforcement agents will only conduct unannounced home visits in “extremely limited situations.” 

The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which represents employees in 34 federal agencies and offices, welcomed the change. In a statement, NTEU national president Tony Reardon said, “The safety of IRS employees is of paramount importance and this decision will help protect those whose jobs have only grown more dangerous in recent years because of false, inflammatory rhetoric about the agency and its workforce.”

Why the IRS Won’t Literally Be Knocking at Your Door 

Unannounced home visits by IRS agents have been in the news recently because of increasing concerns about safety and scams.

  • Enforcement agents have frequently been assaulted when making home visits.
  • Complaints about unannounced IRS home visits and scammers claiming to be IRS agents have been reported.

After $80 billion was allocated to the IRS in the Inflation Reduction Act, the rhetoric surrounding the false idea of an army of 87,000 IRS agents coming to take hard-earned tax dollars from middle-income workers increased. 

Some of the funding for the agency has since been clawed back. However, fears associated with the IRS didn't bode well for agents making unannounced tax collection visits to the homes of wary taxpayers. 

In the past, IRS home visits were sometimes effective in collecting tax debt or opening a line of communication with taxpayers. However, the IRS says it wants to move away from home visits to prioritize safety for agents and reduce confusion for taxpayers dealing with scammers and inaccurate information about the agency. 

The move is also part of a “transformation effort” at the IRS to focus on improved service, modernization, and tax compliance for high-income taxpayers.

When Unannounced IRS Visits Could Occur

As mentioned, taxpayers with significant unpaid tax bills or unfiled returns will have an opportunity, through an appointment letter, to schedule a meeting at a set place and time with an IRS revenue officer. But the agency says there will “still be extremely limited situations where unannounced visits will occur.” 

  • Examples include when summonses and subpoenas must be served. 
  • Also, sensitive enforcement activities that involve seizing assets could justify the IRS making an unannounced visit, especially if the assets are at risk of being hidden from the government. 

The IRS plans to update guidance on this issue in the coming months. In the meantime, if you’re worried about unpaid tax debt or have several unfiled tax returns, a trusted tax professional might be able to help you determine the best action to resolve the situation.

Kelley R. Taylor
Senior Tax Editor, Kiplinger.com

As the senior tax editor at Kiplinger.com, Kelley R. Taylor simplifies federal and state tax information, news, and developments to help empower readers. Kelley has over two decades of experience advising on and covering education, law, finance, and tax as a corporate attorney and business journalist.