In light of varied and oftentimes very believable tax scams taking place across the United States, the July 22, 2022, issue of IRS Newswire explains how IRS representatives may contact taxpayers, and how taxpayers can determine whether or not a contact is from a legitimate IRS employee. The IRS advises taxpayers, first and foremost, that in most instances, the agency sends several letters via regular mail before attempting to call a taxpayer. However, an IRS representative may first contact the taxpayer via a phone call to discuss an overdue tax bill, a delinquent or unfiled tax return, or an overdue unemployment tax deposit. We recommend that anyone who receives this kind of call ask for the caller’s full name, IRS Employee ID Number, and a call-back number, and call back before speaking with the IRS representative.
Note that the IRS does not leave pre-recorded, urgent, or threatening voicemails. Specifically, the IRS will not: (1) demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a wire transfer, (2) threaten to immediately contact law enforcement to arrest the taxpayer, (3) demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the chance to question or appeal the amount due, or (4) ask for credit or debit card information over the phone.
The IRS also advises that tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury, and that individuals who receive phone calls from scammers should hang up immediately. For more information, taxpayers can visit the following website: IRS warning: Scammers work year-round; stay vigilant.
The IRS warns that scammers’ tactics may also include using text messages and e-mails. A fraudulent text may include a request that the taxpayer verify personal information, and/or shortened or otherwise bogus links purporting to be IRS websites. The IRS recommends that taxpayers who receive text messages purporting to be from the IRS neither respond to the texts, nor click on links in the texts. Other than through IRS Secure Access, where a taxpayer will already have registered, the agency does not communicate with taxpayers via text. Similarly, the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers via e-mail to request information, so taxpayers should not click on any link in an email that seems to be from the IRS.
The IRS asks that the targets of these scams report them by e-mailing the fraudulent text or e-mail to email@example.com. The IRS also refers taxpayers to more information in its Report Phishing and Online Scams website.
The IRS also encourages taxpayers to be vigilant of in-person imposters. IRS civil enforcement officers, referred to as “Revenue Officers,” may make unannounced visits to a taxpayer’s home or place of business to discuss taxes owed or tax returns due, but, with one limited exception (a very few cases selected to help businesses from falling behind on withheld employment taxes), the taxpayer will have first been notified by regular mail of their missing return or amount owed. IRS Revenue Officers or Revenue Agents (agents who handle more complex audits) may also visit a taxpayer who is being audited. In this situation, in addition to being previously notified of the audit by regular mail, the taxpayer under audit will have scheduled the in-person appointment.
It is important to note, however, that unlike with the civil matters described above, IRS Special Agents (i.e., the agents who investigate tax crimes) may visit a taxpayer without any prior notice. A taxpayer who is visited by IRS Special Agents may politely say that they are, or will be, represented by counsel, and answer no further questions without consulting counsel.
Any taxpayer visited by individuals who describe themselves as IRS representatives must ask for their identification, which takes the form of IRS-issued credentials (also referred to as a “pocket commission”) and a HSPD-12 card (a governmentwide standard form of identification for federal employees).
Taxpayers seeking more information regarding in-person visits should read How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door as well as the IRS Taxpayer Bill of Rights.