The decade's most triggering comedy
The Internal Revenue Service announced Monday that it would cease sending federal agents to make unannounced visits to taxpayer homes, citing safety concerns for both the employee and the taxpayer.
“These visits created extra anxiety for taxpayers already wary of potential scam artists,” IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a news release. “At the same time, the uncertainty around what IRS employees faced when visiting these homes created stress for them as well.”
The federal agency began making unscheduled visits to households and businesses in the 1950s to collect unpaid taxes and resolve unfiled tax returns. But in recent years, Werfel said increased security concerns “on multiple fronts,” including frauds posing as IRS agents bombarding taxpayers, confusing local law enforcement, and hazardous situations, led to the decision to end such in-person visits.
“This is the right thing to do and the right time to end it,” he added.
IRS officials told The Washington Post that over 30 years ago, federal tax agents were assaulted hundreds of times a year, reportedly making them the most-attacked federal law enforcement officers. A spokesman called the work “some of the hardest jobs in government” and that eliminating the duty could help bring “good people” to the agency.
IRS officials said the agency immediately replaced most unannounced visits with appointment letters to schedule follow-up face-to-face meetings. Although taxpayers likely won’t ever see the taxman on their doorstep again, the IRS noted limited unscheduled visits could still occur in rare instances of service of summonses and subpoenas or sensitive enforcement activities involving the seizure of assets.
The announcement comes amid the creation of the IRS Strategic Operating Plan after lawmakers passed the Inflation Reduction Act last year, which provided the agency a decade of funding to transform the federal service and double the size of its workforce.
Earlier this year, the IRS announced that the agency would hire agents qualified to wield firearms for the tax collection agency’s Criminal Unit.
Candidates for the special agent position, the only job at the IRS where employees are permitted to carry guns, will be expected to combine their “accounting skills with law enforcement skills to investigate financial crimes,” according to a posting on the IRS website.
Adam Andrzejewski, Founder and CEO of Open the Books, an online database capturing all disclosed spending at every level of government, found the IRS spent $35.2 million of taxpayer money on guns, ammunition, and military-style equipment in the last 20 years, including $10 million in weaponry and gear since 2020. According to Andrzejewski, the IRS purchased AR-15 style rifles, semi-automatic shotguns, and submachine guns while stockpiling 5 million rounds of ammunition in their gun locker.
“The IRS special agent is starting to look less like a desk worker or rule maker and more like a SWAT team from a Hollywood thriller. It’s the blurring of the lines between a tax agency and traditional law enforcement,” Andrzejewski said.
The agency’s move also comes off the heels of Matt Taibbi, an independent journalist who reported on collusion between government agencies and the former executives of Twitter, revealing an IRS official visited his home on the same day he testified before Congress about the weaponization of the federal government.
The agent left a note instructing him to call the agency four days later; Taibbi was informed during the call that his 2018 and 2021 tax returns were rejected over identity theft concerns.
Republican House Judiciary lawmakers called the IRS announcement a “BIG WIN!” after Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) first brought the issue with Taibbi to light during a hearing earlier this year.