published Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

Phillips: When IRS comes to door, avoid panicky babbling

by Ellen Phillips

The IRS came knocking on a friend’s door, which scared the patootie out of the couple. While it’s certainly frightening to open your door to Uncle Sam’s representatives (and they tend to use tricky tactics), you can come out ahead of the game if you’re careful and keep panicky babbling to a minimum.

Today’s column features IRS approaches and what to do when you find yourself faced with an audit. Thanks to “Bottom Line Personal” for the information.

  1. Phone calls rather than notification letters are often utilized because they startle us into saying more than we should (i.e. “babbling”). Say nothing to the agent other than to request his or her contact info, inform the agent you’re represented by a CPA or tax attorney (and, if you’ve not done so, immediately hire one), and your representative will contact the agent. Other than this, keep your lips zipped.
  2. Inflexible deadlines of 15 to 30 days must be responded to by that last date. However, all you need do is to contact the agent in writing and by certified mail asking for specifics

as to what he wishes you to do. Again, it’s best your own representative (CPA or attorney) does the contacting on your behalf. The small amount you spend on this service may save you worlds of money in the long run.

  1. Consider a conversation somewhat like being Mirandized. In other words, anything you say can (and probably will) be used against you. Let your rep do the talking; anything you must respond to yourself, do so only in writing.

So let’s assume the agent and you don’t exactly see eye-to-eye; you do still have recourse.

  1. Ask to speak with the manager or the manager’s manager — all the way up the ladder until you get someone (somewhat) cooperative. These “territory managers” usually are more reasonable and can overrule agents’ decisions.
  2. Be sure to mail any and all replies certified mail return receipt requested. If Mr. Agent doesn’t respond within 30 days, you have the right to ask for and receive free help from the IRS advocate assistance service ( or call 877-777-4778).

This watchdog agency often proves to be man’s best friend when dealing with folks in the IRS who shuffle along or come to a dead stop — at your expense. Moreover, this agency advocating on your behalf makes agents a bit more wary.

  1. Ask for a face-to-face penalty reduction meeting, especially as most folks make honest mistakes that shouldn’t mean any penalties, which the IRS loves to invoke. By this point in the process, it’s OK to meet with the agent so he or she can listen to your (honest) explanation.
about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at under Local Business.

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
328Kwebsite said...

Bernie Madoff gave similar advice to his people on dealing with the SEC. Yet, I've found that the IRS has often been interested in filing accurate returns. Perhaps that's the problem here. Maybe the author doesn't believe that an accurate payment of taxes is in the payer's best interest.

A lot of people who get audited are either poor or self employed. It's not practical to think that they are going to have their CPA do the talking for them.

July 2, 2011 at 4:35 a.m.
LibDem said...

Immediate response to correspondence will resolve most problems. It's not cost effective for IRS to call people except to facilitate processing. If you misspelled little Herkimer's name or missed his birth year, this can be corrected unless of course you 'borrowed' Herk's SS# from the lady next door who has more kids than she can list. (If the agent says, "According to our records, Herk is 42 and you're 35. Was it a difficult birth?", you'll have some issues.)

If the agents come to your door, it means Cousin Bernie gave you bad advice on reporting the drug money.

Trust me, if you owe enough to justify pursuit, you will already have a folder of correspondence and know exactly what fraud you committed.

July 2, 2011 at 1:01 p.m.
please login to post a comment

Other National Articles

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »


Find a Business

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.