Who's Who at the IRS

Important IRS Personnel That IRS Tax Lawyers Work With:

IRS Revenue Officer

The IRS Revenue Officer (or “RO”) is the first person you’ll likely meet in the IRS collections lawyer world. All they do is collections work for the IRS. ROs both collect money and various IRS forms such as a tax return that remains unfiled on a particular matter. Revenue Officers do not determine what the tax owed actually is and they do not (or should not) examine the actual tax returns themselves.

If an IRS revenue officer is assigned to your tax liability case, they will often request that all correspondence and documentation go through them. Your tax resolution professional will monitor the revenue officer to ensure that they are processing things in a timely fashion. If for example an offer in compromise is being submitted, make sure that the RO processes it immediately.

If the revenue officer is not processing items timely, your IRS lawyer may decide to mail items in (certified) and give the revenue officer a courtesy copy. Delays on the revenue officer’s part can hurt the taxpayer because the IRS can move into enforced collections without consulting with the revenue officer (not knowing that they may have been the reason for delays).

IRS Revenue Agent

An IRS Revenue Agent (“RA”) are the auditors for the IRS. A revenue agent actually examines tax returns (perhaps multiple years worth of tax returns for an individual taxpayer or entity) and will determine what taxes are owed, due and payable. RAs conduct tax audits, field audits (might be the one stationing themselves in your office).

Revenue Agents are in the field.

IRS Tax Compliance Officer

An IRS Tax Compliance Officer (“TCO”) stays in the IRS office. Similar to a revenue agent, a TCO has the ability to determine what taxes are owed and conduct an audit (albeit from the comfort of their own office, not in yours), and their authority is a bit more limited compared to an IRS revenue agent.

Tax Compliance Officer has a limited amount of time in which they are supposed to complete their audit. This is important because you have a higher likelihood of resolving your IRS problem if you present your case in an orderly, structured and efficient manner. This is just one reason why you are best served hiring a tax professional or IRS tax lawyer to negotiate with the IRS on your behalf.

IRS Offer Examiner

These are the IRS employees who will review Offer in Compromise at the IRS central offer and compromise central processing center. The IRS offer examiner will determine if the offer in compromise is reasonable, acceptable, and processable by the government.  

IRS Appeals Officer

An IRS appeals officer has the authority and experience to deal with taxpayers (or their IRS problem attorney), and they are often more reasonable to work with because they are thinking about whether its worthwhile to litigate the matter at hand.  Appeals Officers are often more creative in what they will consider and are open to reasonable extenuating circumstances. Meetings with IRS appeals officers are not in a courtroom.

IRS appeals officers hear cases that come out of the IRS’s examination division.

IRS Settlement Officer

IRS settlement officers is also in the “IRS appeals” category. But a settlement officer hears cases that come out of the IRS’s collections division.

IRS Taxpayer Advocate Office

The is is a position internal to the IRS. When the above IRS officers are being unduly unreasonable, or if the taxpayer is entitled by law to something (e.g. meets all the criteria for a first time penalty abatement, but some kind of confusion in the IRS causes them to continue to mail out collections letters….or if the IRS tax officer oversteps or is being unnecessarily abusive, etc...) IRS Form 911 is filled out in order to notify the taxpayer advocate.

Abusive Tax Avoidance Transactions (ATAT) Officer

An ATAT officer is a “revenue officer,” with this special designation, who is assigned to investigate cases where a taxpayer is accused of utilizing “abusive tax shelters” or engaging in “abusive tax transactions” for tax avoidance purposes.

Overview of IRS Departments

Since the Revenue Reconciliation Act of 1998, the IRS has been structured, to address and handle different types of taxpayers, per the following four divisions:

Individual Taxpayers with Wages and Investments

By far and away, this is the largest category of client looking for IRS tax attorney help. Most taxpayers fit into this category.  

Small Business / Self Employed (SB/SE)

The SB/SE division of the IRS most frequently handles delinquent employment / payroll taxes. Non-profit organizations, who fail to pay their payroll taxes, also fall into this category. The SB/SE IRS department is also chasing after estate taxes, gift taxes and excise taxes.

This is the second most common type of taxpayers looking for IRS tax attorney counsel.

Large Businesses and Tax Exempt Organizations

These are the third and fourth divisions of the IRS. IRS defense lawyers rarely represent these types of taxpayers. Large corporations usually have their own in-house legal staff and accountants to handle these matters.

If tax exempt organizations become delinquent with their employment taxes, wage or payroll taxes, the SB/SE IRS division will still investigate and pursue the matter.  

An IRS defense lawyer might represent a tax-exempt organization if they are looking for a first time abatement for a Form 990 that they failed to file.  

Overview of Information your IRS Lawyer May Obtain

Individual Master File

The IRS individual master file (IMF) is also sometimes referred to as the “literal transcript” (i.e. without codes). Different IRS transcript types described here.   

Business Master File

Similar to the IMF. The IRS business master file (BMF) will provide returns and IRS files for the years specified between the IRS and the business in question.

Information Returns Master File

The information returns master file (IRMF) is the IRS wages/income transcripts that shows 1098s and 1099s, which will be posted on that transcript.

Tax Return Transcript

Form 4506-T has all the figures on the tax-return.

Record of Account


The “tax mod A” form includes:

C-SED (collections statute expiration date)

A-SED (assessment statute expiration date)

R-SED (refund statute expiration date)

  • Get this from the tax practitioner’s priority line: 1-866-860-4259

Other Misc Documents: can always ask for specific documents. If someone is being audited, can request the audit file and IRS examiner’s work file.

Common Questions Your IRS defense lawyer Will Ask:

  • Provide any correspondence you have received from the IRS
  • Who have you been speaking with at the IRS?
  • Any unfiled returns?
  • When were your returned filed?
  • Has the IRS assessed any unpaid tax penalties and interest?
  • If so, in what amounts?
  • Have you made any agreements with the IRS?
  • Have you filed an offer in compromise?
  • Have you filed an installment agreement request?
  • Have you filed an innocent spouse or injured spouse relief request?
  • Have you filed an IRS Appeal?
  • Have you filed bankruptcy?

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