You knew it was possible that the IRS might take notice, but you never really thought it would start like this. A knock at the door. The next thing you know you are staring at two handsomely dressed people who, after confirming your identity, flash official looking IDs and say something that includes “IRS.” You catch a glimpse of the hostered sidearm when one Agent slips his ID back inside his coat. “Could we come in for a moment? We have just a couple questions.”
So there are you are at the moment of truth. A hundred conflicting thoughts are flashing through your mind. I should not talk to these people. . . How much do they know?. . . If I say no, or if I even hesitate, they’ll take that as a sign that I’m guilty. . . If I act calm and confident, they’ll believe I’m innocent. . . “Sure, come on in.” MISTAKE NUMBER 1.
The Agents follow you into a sitting area. The first one engages you in small talk. You notice that the second Agent begins roaming, peeking around corners, looking into other rooms, and taking note of any files, papers or books you have laying about. Before you know it the first Agent is mumbling about a small formality before you get started. Something about your right to decline to speak with them and that anything you say could be used against you in a court of law. His quiet manner and friendly smile say that all that stuff really only applies to guilty people—not to someone like yourself. “Are you willing to answer just a few questions for us?” If I say ‘no’, they’ll think I’m guilty. If I say ‘no,’ they’ll probably arrest me right there. Besides, I know how to talk my way out of this. “Sure, what do you need to know?” MISTAKE NUMBER 2
How should you have handled this?
For starters, the very short conversation that should follow after the Special Agents have identified themselves is going to take place outside your home or office, not inside. Don’t yield to the temptation to bring them inside before neighbors can see them at your door.
Second, what you say when they ask if they can come in to go over “just a couple questions” with you, is critical. You say, “I’m happy to answer any questions you have , and provide any information I can, but I do have an attorney who should join us. Give me your contact information and I’ll have him call you, and I’m sure he’ll be happy to set something up.”
Third, as soon as they’re gone, get on the phone to an experienced criminal tax attorney. Will your attorney set something up? If he or she is an experienced criminal tax attorney, probably not, but let your attorney take the blame for declining the interview.