Will a simple request for my master tax file from the IRS cause them to start up collection activity?

This is unlikely.  The disclosure office that collects information for your master tax file is separate from the collection arm of the IRS.  In our region, disclosures are handled in Austin, Texas.  You are entitled to your transcripts and master tax file by the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA").  The master tax file tells the tale of your tax problem: the record of filings, non-filings, penalties, interest and, most importantly, the statute of limitations (known as the CSED, collection statute expiration date) for each tax year that the IRS is trying to collect. 

If you need help obtaining or reading your transcripts, call a local licensed lawyer to assist you.  If you are in Oklahoma, call attorney Travis Watkins at 1-800-721-7054 today. 
Travis Watkins
Senior Tax Attorney