Volume 8 Issue 4 -- July/August 1996
If a client brings an ACS IRS levy or wage garnishment to your office and you agree to represent that client, you should be aware of the system. While there is much that can be done, doing it is not easy or pleasant. In view of the IRS' sweeping powers, it is important that professional fees be obtained in advance, because IRS levies are unpredictable and a promise to pay may be worth nothing.
If you, or your client, gets a notice from an ACS office, you will be asked to call (not write) an "800" number. While an IRS letter or notice may indicate that it originated at an IRS Service Center (e.g., Philadelphia or Ogden), often the "800" number reflected on the correspondence could be for a different, and often distant, location.
When you call an ACS "800" number, you, or your client, will first be asked for a social security or employer (EIN) number. Such numbers determine, arbitrarily, to which ACS Team you will be assigned. An ACS employee will answer and usually identify herself or himself by last name only.
At this point, it is a good idea to ask the ACS employee for their "Employee Identification Number." Why? There may be many Browns and Smiths at a large ACS facility. If something goes wrong or you later need to identify the employee you spoke with, it may be difficult to do so without being able to identify the exact employee.
Some ACS staff may refuse to give their employee I.D. number, but most will readily supply it. Another reason for asking for the IRS employee I.D. number is to avoid or limit the "Power of Attorney ruse." You cannot represent a party before the IRS without filing an IRS Power of Attorney (Form 2848) in advance. Sometimes, taxpayer representatives will be told that "there is no Power of Attorney on file," when in fact one has been filed and the ACS employee simply cannot find it (suggest they look at "screen four") or they are too busy and want to get you off the phone.
Without an employee I.D., complaints about such "false alarms" cannot be reviewed. As you may have guessed, asking for an I.D. number reduces the frequency of the comment that "no power" has been filed.
Because of their role and function, first-line ACS staffers (the first person you get on the phone, often after an interminable wait) are extremely limited in their exercise of discretion. For example, the Jacksonville ACS office refuses to allow delinquent Form 941 (withholding) taxes to be paid over more than a six-month period even if the six monthly payments would be considerably beyond the ability of the taxpayer to pay and remain in business.
Can you demand to speak to an ACS supervisor? Yes, but often not on the same day. They promise to, and usually do, get back to representatives within 24 hours.
Do not expect the ACS supervisor to accede to your demands just because you are a professional. Often the ACS supervisors are forced to operate within fairly narrow limits, also.
Do ACS offices have different policies? Yes, and this creates problems because cases are transferred from area to area without consistent treatment. Just recently, many Baltimore ACS cases were transferred to Jacksonville ACS where policies are different.
Because ACS staff members are considerably circumscribed in authority, they attempt to move through cases with dispatch. They usually ask for all the financial information "on the phone" and do not want written Form 433-A's and B's (Individual and Business Financial Statements) filed, or any other documents.
An installment payment agreement, if negotiated on the phone with ACS, will not be documented by a written IRS Form 433-D, called an "Installment Payment Agreement" or any document signed by the IRS.
If something goes wrong, and you have to call ACS back, you WILL NOT get the person you talked to before. You may ask, but you WILL NOT be referred to such prior ACS employee even if you demand to speak to that person to discuss, for example, a misunderstanding as to the terms or amounts of payment.
In short, there is NO continuity of communications at ACS, apart from what is entered into the "computer." If the computer entries (which you cannot review) are wrong or non-existent, tough luck. If, for some reason, you do not complete the first ACS conversation (lack of time or the like), then you have to begin over, at "square one" with a different ACS person when you call back.
While ACS may take the "cream off the top," it leaves many disgruntled representatives "on the bottom" wondering how to effectively deal with that office. What can you do? You can ask that your case be transferred to a field office. Sometimes, based on the size and complexity of the case, the matter may be transferred to an IRS District Office.
Next time: Other Effective Collection Strategies
By Tax and Business Professionals, Inc.
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