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By Michael S. Anderson of Anderson Tax Law logo for Arizona tax attorney Michael S. Anderson P.C.
  • Dealing With IRS Automated Collections: 5 Tips to make it easier

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    When the IRS “assesses” a debt or enters the amount you owe into it’s system, the case is sent to the IRS Collections Division.

    There are two types of IRS Debt Collectors:

    1. The IRS Revenue Officer
    2. IRS Automated Collections

    In the very old days, the case always went to a warm body. Someone who could make a knock at the door and sits down with you at the kitchen table. In the 1980s, the IRS developed an automated system in an effort to streamline the collection process.

    Most cases start with this system which is called the Automated Collection System (ACS). ACS employees have the authority to issue levies, correspond in writing and deal with you over the phone. The first verbal interaction with the IRS you will likely have, will be with an ACS Employee.

    Dealing with the ACS Personnel Can be Frustrating

    Dealing with the IRS ACS can be frustrating for a variety of reasons. The most common are these:

    1. The employees aren’t always as knowledgeable as local Revenue Officers about substantive tax law. Most of the employees don’t even know what your “rights” are.
    2. The telephone wait can be very long. Calls are often dropped and mistakes are made on their end, causing the call wait time to re-start.
    3. You will not be working with the same person every time you call. The new employee must read the previous employees’ notes, which are often incomplete and surprisingly incorrect.
    4. The ACS employee can be impersonal and will sometimes be rude.
    5. The ACS employee won’t/can’t explain your legal options are and how they work. Many end up in a payment plan with the IRS that is much too high as a result.
    6. The ACS employee’s authority is limited. There are situations that fall outside their employee’s guidelines and that will have to be dealt with by a Revenue Officer.

    5 Tips that will make it easier to deal with ACS

    1. Speak kindly. Rudeness may make the situation worse. ACS Employees will hang up the phone. A political lecture will go nowhere as well. If the employee is not following the law, ask for her manager. If the employee is rude, it may be best for you to hang up and try to call back later and deal with someone else.

    2. Don’t lie. The ACS employee is going to ask you a number of questions. It is a felony to give false information.

    3. Speak with an experienced tax and bankruptcy attorney first. Knowledge will give you confidence and help you to avoid a mistake.

    4. Be aware that the ACS employee isn’t trying to help you. No matter how nice the ACS employee is, his goal is to get a payment amount from you to pay the debt in full. The employee doesn’t care about bankruptcy, offer in compromise, or other legal options and unless you press the issue, he doesn’t care that much about your actual budget.

    5. Be prepared. Study the rules regarding installment agreements, non- collectible status, and IRS allowable budget standards. Know your income, budget and asset numbers cold.