Law Office of Robert E. Giffin CPA
4924-B Reed Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43220

Tel: 614-326-1222
Fax: 614-326-1080

CPA and Tax Attorney

​​​​Robert E. Giffin

What to Do When the IRS Knocks on Your Door

If you receive a knock at the door and it is an IRS Special Agent, he will show you a badge and advise you of your Miranda Rights, which inform you that you have the right to remain silent and you have the right to have an attorney present.

Remember the “fish”.  Fish refers to the old story that if the fish had kept his mouth shut; the fish would not have been caught.  So, if you keep your mouth shut, you may not get caught. When you see two people who show you a badge from the IRS, one will be a Special Agent from the CID (Criminal Investigation Division). Do not talk and ask to have an attorney present before you talk to the agent. Then, immediately call an attorney (not your accountant) as your accountant can be called to testify what you told your accountant. However, by contacting an attorney, everything you tell your attorney is confidential and cannot be disclosed to the IRS agents.   By calling your attorney you protect your rights against self-incrimination.

Keep in mind the IRS does not make the initial contact in person unless the Special Agent is from the CID or is a Revenue Officer to collect tax due. The primary source of contact with taxpayers by the IRS is through mail, so if you receive an email or telephone call from the IRS, you need not worry about an audit or collection of the tax, but you need to think about how you are being scammed.  However, just to be on the cautious side, call them back but do not give out any personal information and ask for their name, their I.D. Number, their supervisor’s name, and the IRS office from where they are calling. Then, check your phone book for the IRS number and call the number from the phone book and ask to speak to the person that contacted you.  IRS has started hiring private collectors to collect delinquent Federal Taxes, so the private collectors my place telephone calls to collect delinquent taxes.

The criminal investigations are conducted by Special Agents of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division agents are trained to make you feel if you answer a few questions, the matter can be cleared up.  Unfortunately, when they appear there are always two agents present.  My personal opinion is that they sometimes go back to the office and write down what they thought you said or what they wanted you to say.  Therefore, when you get to the Court or you hire an attorney, you have two written statements by two credible agents who immediately wrote down what they thought you said or what they wanted you to say. There is no defense.  So, the first thing to do if they knock on your door and after they should have read you your Miranda Rights and shown you their Special Agent badge, is to tell them you wish to have an attorney present prior to talking to either of the Special Agents. IT IS YOUR RIGHT NOT TO TALK TO THEM WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY PRESENT, so do not say another word.

Sometimes Revenue Officers, not Special Agents who are responsible for the collection of delinquent taxes, knock on your door and ask you questions about the collection of the tax.  However, that is not going to be your first contact with the Revenue Officer.  You can simply ask for their badge, their employee identification card and employee I.D. Number to determine they are a Revenue Officer and they will have information in their file about your delinquent taxes.

In addition to the above two personal contacts with IRS Agents or Revenue Officers, you will receive in the mail a Notice that you are being audited. There are three basic types of audits. 

  1. The first type of audit is a correspondence audit where they send you a letter asking you to explain certain items on your tax return.
  2. The second is an office audit where you are requested to appear at a local IRS office with certain documents and be required to answer information about income and deductions omitted or claimed on your tax return.  The letter will explain where you are to appear and what time, and what information you are to bring with you regarding a tax year or tax years.
  3. The third type of audit is conducted by a Revenue Agent who, opposed to a Revenue Officer or an Office Auditor, is trained to handle more complex cases. Revenue Officer’s examinations usually take place at your place of business. This is another bad idea.

Regardless of which type of audit you have, be sure you are neat and organized.  Make sure your records for the particular deduction or income being questioned is in order and is complete. Keep in mind, a deduction may be denied in its entirety if there are no supporting documents to support your deduction claimed on your return.

Stay focused with the auditor and quit volunteering information. Answer questions with a brief yes or no.  If the Revenue Agent or Revenue Officer asks you to explain, keep your answer brief.  Chatting about other issues will serve no purpose.  Therefore, don’t try to impress the Revenue Agent or Office Auditor with excuses. Reminder: “KISS” – Keep It Short and Simple.

Elsewhere on this website is a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.  Prior to going to the audit, make sure you understand your rights with the IRS.

In my opinion, no one should go through an office audit or Revenue Agent’s audit without being represented by an attorney, CPA or enrolled agent.  I personally will not let my clients appear before an Office Auditor or Revenue Agent to answer questions. I simply tell the Office Auditor or Revenue Agent that I am not familiar with that question; I will have to discuss that matter with my client and get back to them with the answer. I request the Auditor write down the questions they have and give them to me and I will consult with my client and get the answer.

Everyone remembers the famous question, “Do you still beat your wife?”  Nine times out of ten, the Office Auditor or Revenue Agent knows what they are looking for, and if you don’t answer correctly you can lose a deduction. Furthermore, if you make a mistake on your answer, that mistake is used in their report against you to disallow the deduction.  You will have a hard time changing that answer later or in an Appeals Hearing.  Therefore, I would recommend you consult with an attorney or CPA prior to even attempting to gather the information for an office audit or field examination by a Revenue Agent. An attorney or CPA can help you organize your documents, advise you where your documents are weak so that you may have a second chance prior to examination to go back and supplement those documents as required by the Internal Revenue Code.