IRS Automated Collection System Strategy #3 – Do not be afraid to play the IRS Automated Collection System lottery
I can often tell from the first minute of the call with the Automated Collection System representative how things are going to go during the call. If the representative is rude or short with me during that first minute, often times I will hang up and call back to get another Automated Collection System representative (what I call affectionately the ACS lottery). There is zero point to spending an entire phone call arguing with someone, which will only frustrate you and is unlikely to lead to the result you are seeking. Why put yourself through such misery? Instead, if your representative if nasty or you get a bad feeling during the call, just bail. You may waste an hour waiting on hold in order to call them back, but you will be glad that you did when you get the result that you wanted.
IRS Automated Collection System Strategy#4 – For payment plans, know where the line is.
Payment plans are based on a simple formula. Generally, if you owe fifty thousand dollars or less, your Automated Collection System representative will want you to pay your balance completely in a maximum of seventy-two months (five years). Take the amount of your liability and divide that by seventy-two. That number is the minimum payment amount the IRS will be willing to accept without an accompanying financial statement demonstrating a hardship. There are a few exceptions; such if your liability is set to expire before the five-year period, but just keep that rule in mind. However, the IRS representative is trained to try and get as much out of you as possible. In addition, those Automated Collection System representatives who are poorly trained may try to get you to go through the financial statement process anyway, even though you are eligible to streamline your IRS agreement. Also, keep in mind that any payment plan requires that you are current on all filings and do not have any outstanding.
IRS Automated Collection System Strategy #5 – Get the agent to take notes; Call back to confirm
I believe that at this point I have likely negotiated hundreds and hundreds of resolutions for taxpayers through automated collection systems. Most of these have gone off without a hitch, my client is pleased, and everyone moves on with their life as it was. However, that does not mean the IRS has not burned me a few times because of the incompetence of the Automated Collection System agent on the other end of the phone. This is the vast minority of the times I call the IRS (less than 1%), but it an awful scenario for all involved when it happens.
I come from the school of being safe rather than sorry, so here a few suggestions I have for making sure that your understanding matches the IRS’s when a resolution is agreed upon. First, at the beginning of the call, the agent will state their name and employee ID number. It is always important to write this number down, as when calling back you will be able to assist the other agent in locating your first call. Second, repeat the resolution back to the agent to make sure your understanding of the resolution is confirmed. This will ensure that both of you are on the same page Third, ask the agent to indicate the resolution in the notes. Tell the agent that it is “really important” that you do not get levied and ask them to make sure to reflect whatever you resolution is in their notes. Some Automated Collection System agents may brush you off (they are trained to take notes on all calls), but this ensures that their notes will be especially nice and clear for anyone to read in the future. Finally, I recommend calling back approximately one to two weeks later to confirm that your resolution is in place. It may be overkill for some resolutions, but having two separate people confirm something provides that extra level of security that the resolution you achieved is reflected on the books.
By implementing these tried and true strategies when dealing with Automated Collection System, you can likely avoid the vast majority of the headache associated with calling them and may be able to save yourself hundreds of dollars by not having to resort to professional representation. Tax resolution for minor resolutions is not exceedingly difficult, it just takes a little advance knowledge of what you are walking in to and a little negotiation on your end to be successful. I hope these tips have been helpful and that you are able to negotiate a successful resolution. For more information or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly for further help.
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 For more information on the full requirements of a streamlined installment agreement, please see: http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Fresh-Start-Installment-Agreements