IRS Ramp-Up In Enforcement Will Be Gradual, Rettig Says

By Joshua Rosenberg
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Law360 (July 21, 2020, 8:09 PM EDT) -- The Internal Revenue Service will continue to phase in enforcement actions that were ceased because of the novel coronavirus pandemic so as not to put an undue burden on taxpayers, IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said Tuesday. 

Even though the agency's People First Initiative, which temporarily relaxed certain payment guidelines and compliance activities, ended July 15, the agency will continue to gradually ramp up its enforcement actions, Rettig said during the IRS Nationwide Tax Forum webinar. 

"It's a phased-in reopening," Rettig said. "We're not just flipping a switch and all of a sudden every IRS operation is there and audit notices and the rest."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced in March that the tax return filing deadline for individuals and businesses would be moved from April 15 to July 15 in light of the pandemic. The same month, the agency said it was suspending certain tax payments and compliance programs and pledged not to generally begin new audits or private debt collections until the July 15 deadline at the earliest.

Under that initiative, the agency said IRS agents would avoid in-person contact with taxpayers as much as possible until July 15. Payments due between April 1 and July 15 were postponed for those who entered payment plans with the agency. The agency also said IRS field officers would generally not initiate seizures of property, liens or levies during the time period, but they would continue to pursue high-income individuals who have not filed.

Rettig also said Tuesday that a report on IRS restructuring and reorganization that the agency is required to present to Congress under the Taxpayer First Act will likely not be ready until December, given the agency's focus pandemic-related priorities. 

"It was originally on a September deadline, and we've moved it to what will likely be December because we had to redeploy some of the people who were heavily engaged in TFA out to other parts during the [COVID-19] situation," he said. 

The Taxpayer First Act, signed into law in 2019, made a host of administrative changes to the IRS to improve customer service and technology and overhaul the agency's appeals process. 

--Additional reporting by Dylan Moroses.  Editing by Neil Cohen.

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