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The IRS said Monday the agency’s revenue agents would stop making surprise visits to businesses and households as part of a major policy change intended to end public confusion and increase safety.

The change reverses the decades-long practice by unarmed IRS revenue officers, whose duties had included visiting households and businesses to collect unpaid taxes and unfiled tax returns.

Except in extremely rare circumstances, unannounced visits are ending immediately and will be replaced with mailed letters to schedule meetings, the IRS said. The rare exceptions will be in-person visits to serve summonses and subpoenas, and the seizure of assets, especially those at risk of being placed beyond the reach of the government.

To put this in perspective, these rare situations typically number less than a few hundred each year – a small fraction compared to the tens of thousands of unannounced visits that typically occurred annually under the old policy, the IRS said.

IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said the policy change is part of a larger effort to transform IRS operations.

“We are taking a fresh look at how the IRS operates to better serve taxpayers and the nation, and making this change is a common-sense step,” Werfel said.

“Changing this long-standing procedure will increase confidence in our tax administration work and improve overall safety for taxpayers and IRS employees,” Werfel said.

The growth in scam artists posing as IRS agents has created confusion for not just the taxpayers but local law-enforcement, Werfel said.

In place of the unannounced visits, revenue officers will contact taxpayers through an appointment letter, known as a 725-B, and schedule a follow-up meeting. This will help taxpayers be more prepared when it is time to meet, enabling their cases to be resolved more quickly and without the need for multiple follow-up meetings.