Everyone at some point in time has heard the statement,
“You know if you’re a cop, you have to tell me.”
Television and movies have been perpetuating this myth since the 1970’s. However, in reality many officers of the law are not so required. In fact, in most precincts across the country that do have policies requiring identification, it is just that, a policy, not law. The reason it is not a law for officers to identify themselves is for their own safety, and while many jurisdictions across the country do have these policies, most do not have any disciplinary actions in place should an officer fail to do so. With over 18,000 police forces in the U.S. and no federal law for identification of officers, it’s best to check your local jurisdiction’s rules on Police identification.
What about the IRS? The IRS has field agents, office agents, revenue agents, officers, and even special agents. Does the IRS have a policy of requiring their agents to identify themselves if asked? The answer is very similar to that of police.
The IRS website has listed the following statement: “RRA98 § 3705 requires all employees to identify themselves upon initially contacting a taxpayer or representative. The first opportunity for Taxpayer Advocate Service employees to identify themselves will occur when they initially make telephone contact with their customers to clarify case issues and provide the customer with planned actions.” – This the only IRS section discussing identification of IRS representatives.
The IRS added this section to the Restructuring and Reform act of 1998 in 2009. The reason for this update was because of impostors pretending to be IRS agents contacting private citizens because of “unpaid taxes”. This type of scam is still very much prevalent today, though because of the above code section, a knowledgeable citizen will request the identifying information from the agent, i.e. name and agent number, and call the IRS to confirm identity and position.
However, nowhere in the rules nor the IRS handbook does it state that if an agent is asked in public or private settings, where the agent is not performing in an audit or debt collection type function, that the agent must identify themselves of their affiliation with the IRS. There is nothing to say that they can’t answer to the affirmative either, but same as police, IRS agents may have various reasons to keep their identification secret; including safety, and you guessed it, undercover operations. In fact the IRS has a section of the Internal Revenue Manual that discusses these types of investigations, IRM § 9.4.8 – Undercover Operations. This discusses the purpose, the methodologies, and the resources involved in such practices, along with basically a step by step analysis of what is required in order for such operations to begin.
The long and the short of it is this. When out in public, or at a conference, be careful of what you say and to whom. Without a definite answer to the affirmative on one’s identity, you may never know who will use any information against you, or for what purpose.