IRS Halted Surprise Visits to Taxpayers' Homes After Pressure From GOP's 'Weaponization' Panel: Report

A House panel probing 'weaponization' of the federal government claims that its investigative pressure led the IRS to end its surprise door-knock policy.
IRS Halted Surprise Visits to Taxpayers' Homes After Pressure From GOP's 'Weaponization' Panel: Report
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington on Oct. 16, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Tom Ozimek
The GOP-led "weaponization" subcommittee in Congress said in a new report that the IRS decided to end its policy of "abusive" surprise visits to taxpayers' homes due to pressure from the panel.

"The Committee’s and Select Subcommittee’s oversight revealed, and led to the swift end of, the IRS’s weaponization of unannounced field visits to harass, intimidate, and target taxpayers," states the report, which was released by the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government on Oct. 27.

"Taxpayers can now rest assured the IRS will not come knocking without providing prior notice—something that should have been the IRS’s practice all along," it adds.

The IRS did not immediately respond to a query from The Epoch Times as to the degree to which pressure from the "weaponization" subcommittee weighed on the agency's decision to do away with the unannounced field visit policy.

In July, when the IRS announced it was putting an end to most unannounced agent visits to Americans' homes, the agency cited security concerns regarding both agency field officers as well as taxpayers.

'Common-Sense' Policy Change

The IRS said in July that it was putting an end to most surprise in-person visits by its agents at taxpayers' homes.

The move reversed decades of policy that saw IRS revenue officers knock on the doors of taxpayers' homes without forewarning in attempts to resolve delinquent tax matters.

At the time, the IRS said it changed the policy in a bid to lower the risk that anxiety-provoking surprise home visits by tax enforcers could spiral out of control, posing a hazard to both taxpayers and agency field officers.

Experience shows that unannounced door knocks at homes and businesses were high-risk encounters, with agents routinely facing "hazards and uncertainty" when making surprise visits, according to the IRS.

Unannounced visits also created what the IRS called "public confusion" and posed risks to taxpayer safety.
"These visits created extra anxiety for taxpayers already wary of potential scam artists," IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a statement. "At the same time, the uncertainty around what IRS employees faced when visiting these homes created stress for them as well. This is the right thing to do and the right time to end it."
Instead of unannounced door knocks, IRS agents will send letters to taxpayers to schedule in-person meetings.
However, the agency stated that there will be "extremely limited" situations in which unannounced visits will occur.

"These rare instances include service of summonses and subpoenas; and also sensitive enforcement activities involving the seizure of assets, especially those at risk of being placed beyond the reach of the government," the IRS said in a statement.

These types of situations represent a small fraction—fewer than several hundred each year—of surprise door knocks on taxpayers' doors, according to the agency.

By contrast, under the previous policy, there were tens of thousands of unannounced IRS agent visits to taxpayers' homes each year.

Witness Intimidation?

Earlier this year, an unannounced in-person visit by an IRS agent to the New Jersey home of investigative journalist Matt Taibbi drew the ire of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

Mr. Jordan heads both the House Judiciary Committee and the "weaponization" subcommittee that operates under its auspices.

"In light of the hostile reaction to Mr. Taibbi’s reporting among left-wing activists, and the IRS’s history as a tool of government abuse, the IRS’s action could be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate a witness before Congress," Mr. Jordan wrote in a letter to IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in March.

The letter, which was obtained by The Epoch Times, demanded that the IRS and Treasury provide various documents and communications relating to the IRS' alleged field visit to Mr. Taibbi's home.
Mr. Taibbi, who was one of the journalists who was given access to internal Twitter communications as part of the "Twitter Files" reporting, appeared on March 9 before the "weaponization" subcommittee.
At the hearing, Mr. Taibbi discussed evidence that the federal government had pressured tech companies to censor content on their platforms.

While Mr. Taibbi was testifying before Congress, an IRS agent visited his private residence in New Jersey and left a note asking the journalist to contact the tax agency, according to Mr. Jordan's letter.

"The circumstances surrounding the IRS’s unannounced and unprompted visit to Mr. Taibbi’s home, at the exact time that he was testifying to Congress about 'the most serious' government abuse he has witnessed in his career as a journalist, are incredible," Mr. Jordan wrote.

Mr. Jordan said in the letter that the IRS indicated it had rejected Mr. Taibbi's 2018 and 2021 tax filings over concerns of possible identity theft.

What's troubling, according to Jordan, is that the IRS door-knock came on the same day Mr. Taibbi was testifying before Congress and over four years after Mr. Taibbi's accountant was notified by the IRS that it had accepted his 2018 tax filing and, since then, had never notified Mr. Taibbi nor his accountant of any problems.

"The IRS’s visit is all the more concerning in light of Mr. Taibbi’s assertions that the IRS informed him the problems were not 'monetary' and he had never received any prior indication of any issues with his 2018 return."

"These facts demand a careful examination by the Committee to determine whether the visit was a thinly-veiled attempt to influence or intimidate a witness before Congress," Mr. Jordan wrote.

Mr. Taibbi, for his part, took to Twitter to say that he was deferring comment on the strange house call until the IRS replied to Mr. Jordan's demands.

Not long after, the IRS decided to end its surprise door-knock policy.

Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.