The Internal Revenue Service plans to stop notifying taxpayers by telephone when they are subject to an in-person field examination, in an effort to avoid confusion with phone scammers.

Instead, all such notifications will come by mail. The policy shift follows reports in Tax Analysts’ Tax Notes Today that attendees of a public forum held last week by the Taxpayer Advocate Service complained that they had received phone calls from IRS employees trying to set up audits. Those claims contradict repeated pledges by IRS Commissioner John Koskinen's to taxpayers that the IRS never calls first.

Tax Analysts said in a new report that the IRS is changing its policy in response to those complaints. The IRS said last Friday it "will implement a policy to notify taxpayers in this smaller exam category first via mail that their return has been selected for audit and then contact them to schedule an appointment."

The IRS added that the vast majority of its initial audit contacts are handled by sending a letter first, but in some of the in-person field audits, the IRS may contact the taxpayer or their representative by phone to schedule an appointment to begin the audit.

"This phone contact is followed up with an appointment letter confirming the appointment," the IRS statement continued. "This has been a longstanding policy at the IRS and we have no indication that criminals claiming to represent the IRS on the phone have said they were calling to set up an appointment for a meeting.”

However, out of an abundance of caution, the IRS now intends to stop initiating the contacts by phone.

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