Understanding the IRS Food Chain

Understanding the IRS Food Chain

Understanding the IRS Food Chain

Non-Legal Entry-Level IRS Positions:When you receive a notice from the IRS, it can be a scary and overwhelming experience. Luckily, most of your interactions with IRS personnel will be with non-legal personnel — many of whom are in entry-level positions and/or have limited tax background. Unlike an IRS Attorney or Special Agent, many examiners and agents are limited to basic audits and examinations and have not significant tax or legal background — as these are non-legal positions.

Let’s review some entry-level and experienced IRS positions to better understand the IRS food chain.

IRS Agents and Examiners vs. Special Agents

Getting a visit from two IRS special agents can be scary for many taxpayers; sitting across from a litigation or trial Attorney in an IRS Investigation is also scary. These two situations are not common.

More commonly, you will be sitting across from an IRS Examiner, or having your taxes reviewed by a Revenue Agent.  These positions are “lower-level” IRS positions. They do not require a tax or legal background.

And, while these personnel will be trained to evaluate your taxes, they have very limited authority, and generally are not adversarial (since they’re not attorneys.)

Examiner vs. Supervisor vs. IRS Agent

Let’s compare two job titles at the IRS:

IRS Special Agent

As detailed below, an IRS Special Agent is a serious position, in which the agent is tasked with uncovering financial and other complex crimes. An IRS Special Agent may be an attorney (and/or have a legal background).

IRS Examiner or Officer 

An IRS Examiner or Officer is typically an entry-level, non-attorney position. These IRS employees will generally not have any legal or tax background — which usually results in a much less “scary” experience for the taxpayer (which is a good-thing for the taxpayer)

Let’s explore some of the more common positions in audit and/or investigation types of matters.

Contacted by an Examiner, Agent or Tax Law Specialist?

Your first introduction to the IRS may be a basic audit. The audit may be a “paper” or “correspondence” audit, or possibly an in-person or business audit. This is typically the first stop on the IRS food-chain. The person reviewing your taxes is usually a recent graduate of 2 or 4-year college or university.

We have found many of these IRS staff members to be overall pleasant, and less adversarial (since they are not attorneys).

*They have a very limited scope in the services they perform.

How does the IRS describe these Entry-Level Positions?

Let’s take a look:

IRS Examiner

      • “This position reviews tax returns for accuracy and completeness, reviews and codes tax returns for computer processing, resolves errors and corresponds with taxpayers to obtain any missing information”

Revenue Agent

      • “In the IRS’ Small Business and Self-Employed (SB/SE) division, you’ll conduct examinations of individuals and small businesses to determine federal tax liability.”

IRS Tax Law Specialist

      • “As a Specialist, you’ll leverage the latest in mini and micro computers, telecommunications and data management systems.  You’ll be a proactive decision-maker working with customers, businesses and the legal and financial communities.*

*Not to be confused with a Board-Certified Tax Law Specialist, which is the highest designation a practicing tax attorney can earn.

Communicating with a Manager, Supervisor or Appeals Officer?

Your next meeting or communication with the IRS may be someone a bit more senior, such as an appeals officer, supervisor or technical manager. These positions are higher-up the IRS food-chain.

The person you are communicating with will generally have more power or leeway to resolve your issue:

How does the IRS describe these Mid-Level Positions?

IRS Management Role

“You will be responsible for assigning, directing, and reviewing the work of subordinate employees.

You will use your leadership skills and management techniques for planning, scheduling, and coordinating work operations, planning and carrying out the training and development of employees, evaluating employees’ work performance, and in performing all other related administrative functions”

Revenue Officer

The role of the Revenue Officer is to collect taxes that are delinquent and have not been paid to the IRS and to secure tax returns that are overdue from taxpayers.  

To fulfill this role, Revenue Officers:  Conduct face-to-face interviews with taxpayers (and/or their representatives) at the taxpayer’s place of business or residence or, on rare occasions, at the Revenue Officer’s office.

These interviews may be scheduled or unscheduled (cold calls), depending upon the case. This is done as part of the investigative process of collecting delinquent taxes and securing delinquent tax returns.

Appeals Officer

Independent by statute, staffed by highly trained professionals who provide mediation for any taxpayer contesting IRS compliance actions.

Appeals is the last opportunity for the IRS and a taxpayer to resolve disputes prior to litigation, and ensures that all taxpayers can receive an impartial review of their tax case.

As an IRS Appeals Officer, you’ll conduct Appeals conferences to settle cases in which taxpayers have appealed IRS determinations on their tax case or filed a petition.

Advanced IRS Position Example: Special Agent

When clients contact us with more serious inquiries involving offshore and foreign tax matters, it is generally because they were contacted by an IRS Special Agent.

If you are contacted by a Special Agent, you should always retain counsel first, since the agent is assessing you for criminal culpability.

How does the IRS describe a More Advanced Position?

IRS Special Agent

As financial investigators, CI Special Agents fill a unique niche in the federal law enforcement community.

Today’s sophisticated schemes to defraud the government demand the analytical ability of financial investigators to wade through complex paper and computerized financial records. Due to the increased use of automation for financial records, CI Special Agents are trained to recover computer evidence.

Along with their financial investigative skills, they use specialized forensic technology to recover financial data that may have been encrypted, password protected or hidden by other electronic means.

Do You Need an Attorney to Deal with the IRS?

Generally, when a person is communicating with the IRS, they will benefit from having an Attorney. This is because it helps protect the attorney-client privilege.

Golding & Golding: About our International Tax Law Firm

Golding & Golding specializes exclusively in international tax, and specifically IRS offshore disclosure

Contact our firm today for assistance.