IRS Collections Step Five - Your Case is Assigned to IRS Automated Collection Systems (ACS)
At a certain point (usually after sixteen weeks), the service center makes the determination that its collection efforts have not yielded sufficient results and the taxpayer’s account is transferred to one of two places: Automated Collection Systems (ACS) or to the Collection field function (i.e. a revenue officer at a local IRS office). Most collection accounts will start in ACS though. ACS is a system of twenty-three computerized telephonic collection centers spread across the United States. ACS essentially has three functions.
1. IRS Collections Contact Function – The primary function of ACS is to receive incoming calls and make outgoing calls in order to encourage contact with non-filing taxpayers or those who are delinquent on their account and have a balance due. ACS centers around the country handle a high volume of calls daily and work to resolve the accounts of taxpayers as well as to collect information that would be valuable to the collection effort that is voluntarily disclosed during these communications (location of assets, contact information)
2. IRS Collections Investigatory Function – This part of ACS searches taxpayers through public records, asset searches, and calls to third parties in order to pinpoint their location and the location of any assets that may be seized by the IRS during the collections process.
3. IRS Collections Research Function – Not the most appropriate name for this function, but this is the section of ACS that handles any incoming correspondence received from taxpayers and makes the appropriate adjustments to the taxpayers account.
There are several important things to note regarding ACS. First, even though the department functions like a call center, your case is usually assigned to an individual collection agent for review, to issue any notices that need to be sent, and to handle any adverse collection activity that needs to be taken. Most ACS employees will generally handle a volume of about one hundred and twenty five cases at a time. However, you will likely never speak to the individual collection agent assigned to your case. When you call into ACS, your call is handled by one of several employees (even those in different centers), in the particular section where your case has been transferred. For example, if you have a large balance due and owing, a more senior representative is likely handling your case and a junior representative who answers the phone will likely transfer you to that section where those representatives are stationed. Likewise, special sections exist within ACS to handle certain categories of taxpayers (such as federal employees), who are handled entirely by their own separate section.
If you do not contact ACS directly, rest assured that they will make the effort to get in touch with you. ACS has several different avenues for getting ahold of taxpayers. Most people do not realize that their tax return has a treasure trove of information that can be used to find and locate you. Your current employment/employment history (via your W2s), your bank accounts and other asset accounts (via 1099 interest statements filed by the banks), your address, and your social security number are all readily available. In addition, ACS frequently uses public information to track down your current location and whereabouts. Things such as your credit history (credit report), any real property owned, or DMV records can all be easily ascertained. In addition, the IRS can and does communicate with the state revenue agencies to verify the information that they have on file (and vice versa). A database is kept of all of this information, which may be used against you later for collection purposes. In addition, the IRS keeps track of any routing or account numbers that it receives when payments are made by the taxpayer via check or the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). Finally, ACS agents can and do use the internet to locate information about you. You should consider any information on the internet fair game for use by the IRS.
The best time to call ACS is either early in the morning or late at night. As with most telephone response systems, ACS hits high call volume during mid-day. ACS’s hours also stagger based on the area of the country you are calling from. Call from an east coast area code in California and you will be able to reach them earlier than their 8 AM start time (because everyone likes to talk to the IRS first thing in the morning). Likewise, calling them from a west coast area code from the east coast means that you can meet them late at night. For more information, I have written an article on several strategies that I use when dealing with Automated Collection Systems.