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Bill and Account Collectors

Bill and account collectors, sometimes called collectors, try to recover payment on overdue bills. They negotiate repayment plans with debtors and help them find solutions to make paying their overdue bills easier. Show Details

Duties

Bill and account collectors typically do the following:

  • Find consumers and businesses who have overdue bills
  • Track down consumers who have an out-of-date address by using the Internet, post office, credit bureaus, or neighbors, a process called “skip tracing”
  • Inform debtors that they have an overdue bill and try to negotiate a payment
  • Go over the terms of sale or contract with the debtor, when necessary
  • Learn the reasons for the overdue bills, which can help with the negotiations
  • Offer credit advice or refer a consumer to a debt counselor, when appropriate

Bill and account collectors generally contact debtors by phone, although sometimes they do so by mail. They use computer systems to update contact information and record past collection attempts with a particular debtor. Keeping these records can help collectors with future negotiations.

The main job of bill and account collectors is finding a solution that is acceptable to the debtor and maximizes payment to the creditor. Listening to the debtor and paying attention to his or her concerns can help the collector negotiate a solution.

After the collector and debtor agree on a repayment plan, the collector continually checks to ensure that the debtor pays on time. If the debtor does not pay, the collector submits a statement to the creditor, who can take legal action. In extreme cases, this legal action may include taking back goods or disconnecting service.

Collectors must follow federal and state laws that govern debt collection. These laws require that a collector make sure they are talking with the debtor before announcing that the purpose of the call is to collect a debt. A collector also must give a statement, called “mini-Miranda,” which informs the account holder that they are speaking with a bill or debt collector.

Although many collectors work for third-party collection agencies, some work in-house for the original creditor, such as a credit-card company or a health care provider. The day-to-day activities of in-house collectors are generally the same as those of other collectors.

Collectors usually have goals they are expected to meet. Typically, these include calls per hour and success rates.

Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents ensure that governments get their tax money from businesses and citizens. They review tax returns, conduct audits, identify taxes owed, and collect overdue tax payments. Show Details

Duties

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents typically do the following:

  • Review filed tax returns to determine whether tax credits and deductions claimed are allowed by law
  • Contact taxpayers by mail or telephone to address problems and to request supporting documentation
  • Conduct field audits and investigations of income tax returns to verify information or to update tax liabilities
  • Evaluate financial information, using their familiarity with accounting procedures and knowledge of changes to tax laws and regulations
  • Keep records on each case they deal with, including contacts, telephone numbers, and actions taken
  • Notify taxpayers of any overpayment or underpayment, and either issue a refund or request further payment

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents are responsible for ensuring that individuals and businesses pay the taxes they owe. They ensure that tax returns are filed properly, and they follow up with taxpayers whose returns are questionable or who owe more than they have paid.

Different levels of government collect different types of taxes. The federal government deals primarily with personal and business income taxes. State governments collect income and sales taxes. Local governments collect sales and property taxes.

Because many states assess individual income taxes based on the taxpayer's reported federal adjusted gross income, tax examiners working for the federal government report to the states any adjustments or corrections they make. State tax examiners then determine whether the adjustments affect how much the taxpayer owes the state.

Tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents have different duties and responsibilities:

Tax examiners usually deal with the simplest tax returns—those filed by individual taxpayers with few deductions and those filed by small businesses. At the entry level, many tax examiners do clerical tasks, such as reviewing tax returns and entering them into a computer system for processing. If there is a problem, tax examiners may contact the taxpayer to try to resolve it.

Much of a tax examiner's job involves making sure that tax credits and deductions claimed by taxpayers are lawful. If a taxpayer owes additional taxes, tax examiners adjust the total amount by assessing fees, interest, and penalties and then notify the taxpayer of the total amount owed.

Revenue agents specialize in tax-related accounting for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and for equivalent agencies in state and local governments. Like tax examiners, they review returns for accuracy. However, revenue agents handle complicated tax returns of businesses and large corporations.

Many experienced revenue agents specialize in specific areas. For example, they may focus exclusively on multinational businesses. Regardless of their specialty, revenue agents must keep up to date with changes in the lengthy and complex tax laws and regulations.

Collectors, also called revenue officers in the IRS, deal with overdue accounts. The process of collecting an overdue payment starts with the revenue agent or tax examiner sending a report to the taxpayer. If the taxpayer makes no effort to pay, the case is assigned to a collector.

When a collector takes a case, he or she first sends the taxpayer a notice. The collector then works with the taxpayer to settle the debt. Settlement may involve setting up a plan in which the amount owed is paid back in small amounts over time.

Collectors verify assertions that delinquent taxpayers cannot pay their taxes. They investigate these claims by researching information on mortgages or financial statements and by locating items of value through third parties, such as neighbors or local departments of motor vehicles. Ultimately, collectors must decide whether the IRS should take a lien—a claim on an asset such as a bank account, real estate, or an automobile—to settle a debt. Collectors also have the authority to garnish wages—that is, take a portion of earned wages—to collect taxes owed.

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