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The IRS Automated Collection System (ACS): What It Means

They say there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes.


While this is true, it could also be said that there is a third certainty, which is that if you fall behind on a debt owed to the IRS, they will attempt to collect the debt. 


When this happens—depending on the size of the debt, its time in arrears, and the type of debt—the IRS will often enter the debtee into a process of scheduled communication and defined actions known as the Automated Collection System, or ACS


If you owe back taxes and have recently been introduced to the ACS system with a notification letter, or if you’ve been navigating the system for a while, it can help to understand what this system is, how it operates, and what actions you can take within it so your outcome is as favorable as possible. 


In this spirit, the tax resolution experts at Traxion Tax are here to help with a deep dive into the ACS. 


In this post, we break down the ACS into its core components, explain their purpose, and give you some tips for how best to progress through the ACS either on your own or with expert assistance from us. 


Let’s get started!


The ACS Defined

Put simply, the ACS is a tool the IRS uses to collect unpaid tax debt. 


It uses minimal human involvement to automatically send notices, file liens, and inform other organizations within the IRS regarding the status of an overdue tax bill. 


As big and cumbersome as the IRS can seem from the outside, the ACS system is actually very sophisticated and highly effective. 


Consider these facts:


  • The IRS employs roughly 79,000 full-time workers 
  • More than 18 million individual taxpayers owe the IRS $316 billion in overdue taxes
  • That’s a 1-to-227 ratio of IRS worker to individual taxpayer, an unreasonable case load for even the hardest-working IRS agent


So, in order for the IRS to do its job, the ACS is used as a kind of surrogate tax collector that continuously attempts to collect a delinquent tax debt by sending automated letters, setting up payment plans, and documenting taxpayer payment activity over time. 


Think of it as a kind of well-oiled tax collecting machine that has one objective: to get you to pay your taxes.


When and How Is the ACS Used?

Not every delinquent taxpayer will enter the ACS for collections. In virtually every case, a predefined threshold needs to be met first, and only then will the tax debt be ‘sent’ to the ACS for collection. 


In our modern era of email, text, and voice call communication, the IRS still sends the majority of its communications via physical mail. Often, the ACS will trigger physical mail to be drafted and sent to taxpayers without a human’s involvement at all. 


It’s even possible for a taxpayer to work their way through the ACS all the way to complete resolution without directly communicating with a single IRS employee. 


This is exactly what the IRS wants. But, tax situations can be very complex, and it’s not always obvious what action is best to take when navigating the ACS. 


This is why it can be so helpful to rely on a tax resolution company like Traxion Tax to assist you. 


Find out if it makes sense to work with us by scheduling a free consultation with a member of our team. 


Visit this page to get started.


Advice for Interacting with the ACS

Knowing you’ve been put into an IRS collections machine can feel intimidating. But, once you know how to use this machine to your advantage, you can actually improve your situation faster and easier than if you had to rely on human interaction to accomplish the same goal. 


Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you choose to correspond with the ACS on your own. 


  • Know your notices. When you receive a notice from the IRS, take the time to understand the information it contains. Ensure its accuracy; it’s not uncommon for the IRS to make mistakes, and it’s your responsibility to correct them. 
  • Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. IRS call centers employ Customer Service Representatives who have access to ACS’ extensive case management data. As daunting as it may seem, calling the IRS to discuss your tax situation can be one of the smartest actions you can take.
  • Hoard documentation like it’s going out of style. Any time you have documented proof of any financials related to your tax bill, you have an advantage. In many cases, what isn’t documented doesn’t exist (at least, in the eyes of the IRS).
  • Know when it’s time to rely on professional assistance. If you’re feeling like you’re not making progress with the IRS, or if you don’t feel capable enough to deal with the IRS alone, there’s some good news: we’re here to help.

    Every day, we help people just like you regain control of their financial well-being by making their IRS-related challenges manageable. We can do the same for you. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. 


Success with the ACS Is Possible

If the IRS were to receive a grade for how good they make taxpayers feel about their delinquent taxes, they’d probably get an ‘F’. 


That’s because the IRS isn’t a compassionate, caring organization. The IRS organization exists for one reason: to collect federal taxes from taxpayers. 




The IRS’ Automated Collection Service is merely a robotic extension of the IRS developed to meet its ultimate goal of collecting taxes, and it works surprisingly well, for the IRS. For the taxpayer, however, the ACS can seem rigid, difficult, and at times, dysfunctional. 


But, success is possible working with the ACS. 


One taxpayer we worked with recently, Greg L., had been sent to ACS collections due to a 5-figure tax bill that he simply didn’t have the means to pay because of mounting medical debt. 


The resulting penalty abatement we were able to achieve for him meant that he didn’t have to worry about more IRS notices arriving in the mail, and his interactions with the ACS were effectively replaced with interactions with his dedicated Traxion Tax case manager. 


We may be able to get results like this for you, too. Find out by scheduling an appointment to discuss your tax situation. Click here to schedule your complimentary consultation. 


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