Former IRS Revenue Officer

Former IRS Revenue Officer

Michael Raanan, EA

Santa Ana, CA

Male, 35

My tenure with the largest and most powerful collection agency in the world, the IRS, began fresh out of college and with much surprise. Following an extensive interview process and a cross-country flight to the West Coast, I found myself in Los Angeles with the unenviable task of getting delinquent taxpayers back into tax compliance. After approximately 8 years of service, I left, and now find myself (very literally) on the other side of the table helping taxpayers resolve their IRS disputes.

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Last Answer on May 16, 2017

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Did you ever deal with people who tried the 'Wesley Snipes' defense of claiming that they "didn't believe" in paying taxes, or that it was unconstitutional?

Asked by dan79 about 4 years ago

From time to time I did come across the occasional "tax resistor" (formerly referred to as "tax protestors"). Most of these individuals would employ very similar techniques in an attempt to impede Collection activity and delay progress of the case, such as mailing and faxing an inordinate amount of correspondence to the IRS littered with fictitious claims, legal citations and allegations.

As with all IRS cases, each of the tax resistors had their own unique characteristics. In one such case, I was assigned to a holistic practitioner with a business and radio show who would send between 4- 6 letters a week titled "Non-negotiable Notice of Acceptance" containing various indecipherable verbiage and instructing the IRS to, among other things, close his account. Each of those Notices would be followed up the next week with a fully notarized "Notice of Dishonor". Each Notice contained a list of about 10 CC'd recipients, including judges, attorneys and lenders that were part of an unrelated lawsuit. In addition to the correspondence addressed directly to me, the taxpayer was kind of enough to send me courtesy copies of the Notices he sent to the other 10 individuals. After the case was prepared for closure, all 150+ Notices were happily sent along to the Closed Case Files department. 

Related reading:
1) Common frivolous tax resistor arguments: http://evans-legal.com/dan/tpfaq.html
2) Profiles of known tax resistors: http://tpgurus.wikidot.com/

What ultimately prompted you to switch sides? Does it simply pay way more as a practicing accountant?

Asked by Lyd5 about 4 years ago

In short, I'd always wanted to work for myself since I was young. This aspiration was further enhanced by my experience in two business schools which cemented my decision to depart from the IRS and subsequently open my own tax firm.

For me, one of the best parts about working at the IRS was helping taxpayers resolve their tax matter. While at the IRS, it was my responsibility to listen to each taxpayer, assess their tax situation based on the facts of the case, and work with them to resolve their case. I spent a lot of time educating taxpayers on their tax responsibilities and helping them understand how they got themselves into the mess they were in, so that it wouldn't happen again. Indeed, I was helping taxpayers while at the IRS, though understandably, it was difficult for some taxpayers to see it that way at the time. Now, I am in a fortunate position to continue helping taxpayers by working as their advocate and making their lives a little easier.

Compensation aside, a career with the IRS can be very rewarding depending on a person's interests and expectations. The positions at the IRS are as diverse as the employees that work there. A few of the lesser known positions are: Economist, Biologist, Forensic Examiner, Chemist, Engineer, Appraiser, Programmer, Media Specialist...

Related:
1) IRS Careers Website (they even have internships): http://jobs.irs.gov/home.html
2) 2013 General Schedule Pay Tables: http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries-wages/2013/general-schedule/

 

Were you generally more accommodating when a taxpayer was really polite with you? Or were you mandated to treat everyone equally based solely on the facts, irrespective of whether they were nice or jerks?

Asked by blastoff about 4 years ago

As a Revenue Officer (RO), my duties were to investigate the nature of a taxpayer's delinquency and collect any balances or unfiled tax returns that were due. ROs are unique among other IRS personnel as they are the last line of collection for the United States, and because of that, they also have more authority and autonomy. With their personal inventory of Collection cases, ROs work directly with the delinquent taxpayer (an individual or business) or with the taxpayer's authorized representative. After working close to 1,000 cases during my tenure, I certainly had my fair share of difficult taxpayers and representatives.

Although IRS personnel are required to treat every taxpayer with respect and professionalism, irrespective of a taxpayer's behavior, a quicker closure of a case is naturally facilitated when the IRS and taxpayer work in tandem towards a resolution. Cooperating with the IRS and disagreeing with the IRS don't have to be mutually exclusive. This idiom comes to mind, "You can catch more flies/bees with honey than vinegar."

Related reading:
1) IRS Publication 1 Taxpayer Rights (see Paragraph III): http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1.pdf

I've read about how the US is actually a world leader in tax compliance because it's ingrained into the social conscience as a moral responsibility. How could that "conscience" be built in Greece, where no one pays taxes and no one seems to care?

Asked by JoeyWhoa almost 4 years ago

Despite its many inefficiencies and shortcomings, the U.S. tax system is in fact one of the most effective in the world. However, even with a voluntary compliance rate of over 90 percent, there is still a tax gap of approx $450B as a result of underreporting, underpayment, nonfiling, and fraud. Any nation looking to implement a tax system would presumably benefit greatly by benchmarking the U.S. system and adapting so-called 'best practices' to the specific needs of the subject nation.

 

While the process of taxpaying may seem simple to some, do you agree that even the basic forms and concepts may be too complex for a lot of people, especially non-native English speakers?

Asked by joe cann about 4 years ago

I couldn't agree more. If you look closely, you'll often see the Taxpayer Burden Reduction statement at the end of a standard IRS form or publication (see 1 below). While the IRS can attempt to ease taxpayer burden with respect to forms and verbiage, it is Congress that has delegated to the IRS the responsibility of administering the tax laws - known as the Internal Revenue Code and found in Title 26 of the United States Code. Congress enacts these tax laws, and the IRS enforces them. One would imagine, a simpler set of laws would mean an easier time administering such laws, and thus make it easier for taxpayers to comply with them. 

1) "We welcome comments on forms. We try to create forms and instructions that can be easily understood. Often this is difficult to do because our tax laws are very complex. For some people with income mostly from wages, filling in the forms is easy. For others who have businesses, pensions, stocks, rental income, or other investments, it is more difficult.

If you have suggestions for making these forms simpler, we would be happy to hear from you. You can email us at taxforms@irs.gov. Please put “Forms Comment” on the subject line. You can also send us comments from www.irs.gov/formspubs. Click on “More Information” and then on “Comment on Tax Forms and Publications.” Or you can write to Internal Revenue Service, Individual and Specialty Forms and Publications Branch, SE:W:CAR:MP:T:I, 1111 Constitution Ave. NW, IR-6526, Washington, DC 20224. Do not send your return to this address. Instead, see the addresses at the end of these instructions.

Although we cannot respond individually to each comment received, we do appreciate your feedback and will consider your comments as we revise our tax forms and instructions."

2) IRS Website in:
    Spanish: http://www.irs.gov/Spanish
    Vietnamese: http://www.irs.gov/Vietnamese
    Chinese: http://www.irs.gov/Chinese
    Korean: http://www.irs.gov/Korean
    Russian: http://www.irs.gov/Russian
    Accessible/Disability: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Accessible-IRS-Tax-Products

3) Taxpayer Assistance Center: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Contact-Your-Local-IRS-Office-1 

What's your insider's take on the general competence of IRS officers?

Asked by kellyinboston about 4 years ago

There are various positions within the IRS organization that require varying degrees of education and training. While tax legislation and internal policies and procedures would change regularly, one constant during my time at the IRS was the continuous, mandated training for Revenue Officers and other employees. 

I worked along many employees that were CPAs, attorneys, former preparers and bookkeepers, and others that were well-educated and experienced. Some were seasoned 30-year government employees and others transitioned in from the private sector after working for themselves or large corporate entities. Their back stories were always quite interesting. 

Indeed, as with any large organization, there will always be employees within the IRS that appear more proficient than others. However, one thing I vividly recall while at the agency was the perpetual changes in internal policies and procedures and the overwhelming lack of resources across all divisions, such as insufficient human capital and basic office necessities like printer toners, fax machines, and copiers. These changes and shortcomings contribute significantly to the inefficiencies that plague IRS employees, taxpayers, and practitioners alike. In general, organizations with a proper foundation function more efficiently and, thus, are often perceived in a more positive light by stakeholders. 

Related
1) Detailed insight into IRS operations in 2012: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/National-Taxpayer-Advocate-Delivers-2012-Annual-Report-to-Congress 

Hah, pretty timely for an IRS employee Q&A:)
What's your take on the tea party mess you see going down right now? Was it a few politically-motivated bad eggs, or is that kind of profiling a regular occurrence that DOES make things more efficient?

Asked by liza.dewitt about 4 years ago

A perfect mess, indeed. The IRS has never been good at informing taxpayers (the general public) what it is they actually do on a daily basis and why their role (as delegated by Congress) as the 'Accounts Receivable' for the United States is so critical. As such, the public perception of the agency will continue to thrive and flourish, and any detrimental news will always be magnified to the nth degree.

That said, all employees from the Commissioner down are sworn public employees and have an ethical duty to uphold the law and comply with IRS policies and procedures. In addition to immediate supervisors and other superiors, the agency that polices all IRS employees is the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA. In general, employees are usually stepping on egg shells to avoid any violation (such as an 'unauthorized access' simply by transposing one digit of an SSN into the computer), or perception of a violation, in fear of a visit from TIGTA, which may result in losing their job and possibly civil/criminal prosecution. Employees in positions that require taxpayer/case scrutiny must do so within pre-determined guidelines. Any intentional violations only serve to erode the public trust and undermine the integrity of the tax system. 

It should be noted the IRS contends with lawsuits of all kinds on a regular basis. However, we can reasonably expect that IRS and DOJ attorneys will be extra busy following these recent events.

Related:
1) What is TIGTA? http://www.treasury.gov/tigta/about_what.shtml
2) Recent IRS Investigations: http://www.landmarktaxgroup.com/taxpayer-resources/recent-irs-investigations