IRS Publishes Memo to Field Agents Requiring First Contact With Taxpayer to Be By Mail

Due to identity theft and phone scams, the IRS has been modifying its guidance to employees to move away from making initial contact with a taxpayer via phone calls, instead moving towards requiring IRS employees to first send letters via mail to initiate contact.

The IRS has issued guidance to field employees in SBSE-04-0916-0023 that is similar to guidance previously issued for payroll tax exam and FTD deposit alert contacts.  This memorandum now orders field examination employees to make first contact via mail, and has interim revisions of various sections of Internal Revenue Manual, and

The memo to field examiners includes interim changes to the Internal Revenue Manual to implement the new procedures.  It notes:

Effective May 20, 2016, ALL initial taxpayer contacts to commence an examination must be made by mail using approved form letters. Although we recognize making initial contact by telephone has been a long-standing policy, we are changing our practice in response to today's environment of phone scams, phishing, and identity theft. Please ensure this information is distributed to all affected employees within your organization.

The date provided in the memorandum for this program to start is actually four months before the date the memo was issued.  A broader agency wide memorandum was issued at that time, and presumably field agents have been following that “contact first by mail” directive since that time.

As with the payroll tax memorandums, this memo also contains a 14-day waiting period before follow-up contact.  The memo notes:

Examiners (revenue agents and tax compliance officers) will use the appropriate initial contact letters (i.e., call-back or firm appointment) listed in IRM 4.10.2, Pre-Contact Responsibilities, to notify the taxpayer their return was selected for examination, and will not make initial contact by telephone. After mailing the initial contact letter and allowing sufficient time for the taxpayer to respond (14 calendar days from mailing the letter), employees can then initiate contact by telephone with the taxpayer as needed. When a valid Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative, or Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization, is on file for the taxpayer, the appropriate initial contact letter will be mailed to the taxpayer and a copy of the letter will be mailed to the representative with Letter 937, Transmittal Letter for Power of Attorney.