People who make threats or commit actual violence against IRS employees are becoming a bigger worry for the service, and they're hoping tax preparers can detect the trouble signs and report them.

In a speech before the IRS National Tax Forum in New York on Tuesday, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George spoke about the recent airplane attack on an IRS building in Austin, Texas, and a case of a disgruntled taxpayer who tried to hire a hit man to rub out an IRS agent (see Plane Crashes into IRS Building and 30 Years in Jail for Attempted Hit on IRS Agent).

Referring to the airplane attack, which killed an IRS employee, George said, “The terrible truth about any violent act is that frequently there is no indication that an individual will resort to violence. Many times, individuals who turn violent have no criminal record, no history of violent behavior  — nothing that would predict that their frustration would boil over into rage resulting in tragedy.”

“We will never know for certain the state of mind of the individual who perpetrated this attack. However, all the published reports about this incident concluded that the taxpayer involved had something in common with taxpayers you may work with these days — and that is taxpayer frustration. While there may have been no hint that this taxpayer would turn violent, the next time there might be.”

George asked the tax preparers in attendance at the conference to keep an eye out for any signs of troubling behavior. “I encourage you to stay alert for any sign of violence or any threatening remark made by any of your clients, and when you see those signs, please  — immediately alert TIGTA,” he said. “To be clear, I am not asking you to violate a client’s confidence, but by a show of hands, how many of you have encountered clients who have expressed such anger or frustration that it made you uncomfortable? If in doubt, do not hesitate to contact us.”