Working with a bad customer service agent is more than just frustrating – it’s a liability to your overall mental well-being. Unfortunately, if you owe the IRS and your account gets handed over to the IRS ACS, then you’ll likely be dealing with computer-generated notices and inexperienced employees when it comes to navigating your tax situation.

What’s more, you’ll get transferred over to a new employee every time you call the IRS’s automated collection system, so each new communication could become a new headache for you. Conquering your tax matters doesn’t have to be such a struggle, though. If you owe the IRS and your account was recently handed over to the ACS, then we can help you better understand your options moving forward. 

If you need help determining your next steps, then our team here at Seattle Legal Services will get you on the right track. Learn what to expect if you get a notice from the IRS ACS below.

An Overview of the IRS Automated Collection System

When you owe the IRS tax money, the agency is invested in getting you to pay what you owe. Delinquent accounts are typically first identified based on the amount the taxpayer likely owes to the agency. If your delinquency isn’t that serious, then your account will likely initially be handled by the automated collection system.

The IRS ACS is a department that handles the tax agency’s collection efforts. There are multiple ACS locations across the country that essentially operate as massive call centers. ACS computers generate notices, and then, employees field the telephone calls they receive from taxpayers regarding the notices. The ACS can also initiate collection actions such as liens and levies.

If the ACS isn’t successful, then they will transfer your situation to an official IRS Revenue Officer. That individual will personally work your case until they get a resolution—either by working with you to set up payments or by enforcing collection actions to get the money from you involuntarily.

How Does the IRS ACS Get Your Contact Information?

The IRS has many methods of determining how to locate and contact you as a taxpayer. One of the top methods is to use information that the IRS has received from third parties about you and your tax situation. For instance, if you were paid by an employer, then your employer will report those payments to the IRS. Your employer will provide the IRS will the identification information that you provided to your employer when you got the job.

The ACS can also contact you if you’ve ever turned in a tax return before. Tax returns usually contain your address, social security number, telephone number, sources of income, and even sometimes your bank account details, too. If you’ve ever given any of those details to the IRS, then they likely still have it on file.

If neither of these methods is available, then the ACS agents can use the internet to try to find information that can help with locating you.

Types of Notices You May Receive from the IRS ACS

If you’ve received a notice from the ACS, then the first thing you need to do is carefully review the entire letter. Make sure you understand everything the letter states, the amount you owe, the details of any tax penalties, your due dates, and the explanation as to what you should do next.

In general, you could receive several different types of notices from the ACS, and each one has different implications. Here are some of the most common types of notices you might receive and what they mean:

  • CP14 – This notice outlines that you have an overdue balance with the IRS
  • CP16 – This is a second notice to inform you that you haven’t filed your tax returns
  • CP80 – This notice informs you that you have not filed your tax return
  • CP59 – This notice informs you that you have not filed your tax return
  • CP501 – This is your first notice to let you know that you owe the IRS a balance
  • CP503 – This is your second notice about owing the IRS a balance
  • CP504 – This is your 3rd notice explaining your tax delinquency. This notice also informs you of an intent to levy your account
  • CP259 – This is your first notice about a delinquent business return
  • CP518 or CP618 – These are your final notices explaining that you have a delinquent business return
  • CP516 and CP616 – This is your final notice about your overdue tax balance
  • LT16 – This notice is a request for you to contact the ACS directly about your tax situation

This list is far from comprehensive, so if you receive a different type of IRS notice, don’t discount it. Read through the letter to check it for accuracy, and if you have any questions, then don’t hesitate to reach out to the ACS directly about the situation.

How to Handle an IRS ACS Notification

As soon as you get your letter, you need to read it thoroughly. Make sure that everything in the letter seems accurate. If your personal details are incorrect, the balance seems wrong, or the entire letter seems off, then don’t hesitate to contact the ACS to see if there could possibly be an error.

If you think everything seems accurate, then your next step needs to be considering your options. In general, the best way to handle a notification about unfiled or unpaid taxes is to simply rectify the situation by filing your returns or paying what you owe in one big lump sum payment. Since making one large payment likely isn’t an option for you, you may need to get in touch with a representative about creating a payment plan, potentially removing penalties from your account, or determining how you should move forward with your tax situation. 

Since most ACS agents are inexperienced, they may not be fully informed about your options, either. That said, it might be better to contact a tax resolution specialist who can help you fully understand your options, rights, and the best course of action.

What Collection Efforts Can the ACS Take Against Me?

The ACS doesn’t have quite as much authority to collect as a revenue officer. The ACS can, however, seize funds from your bank account if they have access to your bank information. If they have the details about your employment, then they can also garnish your wages. In most cases, the IRS will have access to this information from previous W2s and 1099s. You will receive a notification before these steps are initiated, though, so you’ll have the chance to appeal or rectify the delinquency.

Common Problems Associated With the IRS ACS

Individuals who have worked with the ACS to resolve their tax debt have had several problems with the system. For one, every time you attempt to get in touch with the call center, you’ll have to endure a hold that can last up to an hour. For another, the ACS is mostly designed for taxpayers to resolve the situation themselves or face enforcement action. Most agents are not prepared to negotiate with the taxpayer’s interests in mind.

The Differences Between the ACS and a Revenue Officer

When you owe a tax debt, your account doesn’t always get transferred to ACS Support with the IRS. If you already owe a hefty amount or you haven’t been responding to the ACS’s attempts to collect, then your case might be transferred to a revenue officer. When this happens, your case will no longer be handled by multiple different individuals. The specific tax revenue officer assigned to you will be personally responsible for your case. That said, they may want to meet you in person and physically see the financial documentation you’re using to prove your case.

FAQs: The IRS Automated Collection System

Are you currently dealing with the IRS automated collection system as a result of your ongoing tax situation? No one wants to owe the IRS money or be on the wrong side of the tax agency, but taxpayers do find themselves in this situation from time to time, especially when unexpected financial strain prevents them from paying their tax obligations. 

If you owe the IRS, then it might make the most sense to talk directly with a tax resolution expert. A tax specialist will consider your unique financial situation when coming up with a strategy to help you cope with your tax bill. They’ll be able to provide more personalized counsel that you can rely on. That said, we’ll go over some general answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the IRS’s ACS below.

How Do I Know if an Automated Call is Legitimate?

ACS IRS agents tend to utilize mailed notices much more often than telephone calls. One of the main reasons for this is that a mailed letter is easier to verify. That said, if you do receive a call and you’re not sure if the call is legitimate, then you can always hang up and call the IRS directly to confirm the details of your tax situation. 

A legitimate IRS agent will never demand that you make a payment via gift card or a prepaid debit card. The IRS will also never ask you to make a payment without first sending out a bill to your address. Legitimate IRS agents do not text you or contact you through social media. 

Agents will also always uphold your rights as a taxpayer, so they should never deny your right to appeal the amount you owe or dispute the debt. They will also not harass you, threaten you, or make you fear losing your business license or immigration status. If you face any of these types of threats, then it’s likely you’re dealing with a scammer.

Can I Stop Collection Efforts Temporarily?

Yes. If you need to stop collection efforts temporarily, then you could file a Request for a Collection Due Process hearing. This step allows you to have the opportunity to get your case moved to the IRS Office of Appeals. Once you have your hearing, you can negotiate a payment arrangement with a settlement officer.

How Do I Contact the ACS?

The IRS ACS phone number is printed directly on the notice you receive, as well as the official IRS ACS correspondence address. In general, the fastest and easiest method of ACS correspondence is by calling the number on your form, but you can always contact the IRS on their main line at 1-800-829-1040.

Do I Need to Speak With a Tax Professional?

If you feel like you need additional IRS ACS support, then it might be a good idea to speak with a tax professional. A tax resolution attorney will lean more towards upholding your rights and respecting your financial interests than an ACS agent or a revenue officer.

Ready to Talk to a Tax Resolution Attorney in Washington State?

No one wants to spend hours explaining their tax situation to a newbie IRS ACS support agent. Unfortunately, you may find yourself doing exactly that if you’re not quite sure how to handle a notification about your tax delinquency and your case has already been handed over to the automated collection system.

The good news is that we can help here at Seattle Legal Services. Our team is passionate about helping our clients find a tax resolution strategy that works to benefit both the taxpayer and the IRS. For the most part, the IRS will be willing to work with you so long as you continue to make reasonable payments in a timely manner. Let us help you strike a deal and get back in good standing with the IRS. Schedule a consultation with our team now to get started.