The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) has released a Fact Sheet providing taxpayers with important tips to keep in mind to help taxpayers avoid tax scams and schemes. These individuals, who impersonate IRS agents, have cost taxpayers time and money.
Outlined below are several scams identified by the IRS and important tips on how to help avoid these scams:
If a taxpayer has an outstanding balance due, the IRS will initiate contact via regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. However, there are certain instances when the IRS will call or visit a taxpayer’s home or business such as: when the taxpayer has an overdue tax bill; to secure a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment; or tour a business for an audit or during a criminal investigation. Taxpayers will generally receive a letter (or more than one letter) from the IRS in the mail prior to receiving a call or a visit from the IRS.
Telephone scams involve individuals contacting other individuals pretending to be an IRS representative in order to attempt to steal the other’s money and/or identity. Individuals that feel they have been subject to one of these telephone scams are instructed to contact (1) the IRS if they know they owe, or might owe, taxes; (2) the Treasury and Inspector General for Tax Administration if they don’t owe taxes; or (3) the Federal Trade Commission’s FTC Complaint Assistant in either case.
The IRS will not call a taxpayer and demand payment over the phone via a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer or ask for debit or credit card numbers over the phone. If a taxpayer owes taxes, they should make payments to the U.S. Treasury or review www.irs.gov/payments for IRS online payment options.
The IRS will provide taxpayers with correspondence via a letter in the mail if the taxpayer owes taxes. Scam artists will often threaten taxpayers claiming local authorities, immigration officer or other law enforcement agencies will be contacted to arrest a taxpayer for not paying.
Phishing involves an unsolicited e-mail or fake website that attempts to attract potential victims to provide personal information. Any suspicious e-mail such as this should be reported by forwarding it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The IRS continues to see new and evolving phishing schemes, one of which involves a taxpayer’s bank account(s). Criminals are using real bank accounts to directly deposit funds in the taxpayer’s bank account after filing a fraudulent tax return. These criminals then use various tactics to contact taxpayers posing as IRS agents or a representative from a collection agency to have unsuspecting taxpayers then transfer funds back to the criminal. The IRS suggests Taxpayer’s review their bank accounts for any unexpected deposits to avoid falling victim to a phishing scheme. The IRS does not request personal information via e-mail, text messages or social media to discuss debts or refunds.
As outlined above, taxpayers generally will receive a letter or notice in the mail from the IRS prior to an IRS employee making an official or unannounced visit to discuss taxes owed or returns due as part of an audit or investigation. IRS representatives will always provide their official credentials, called a pocket commission and a HSPD-12 card when making a taxpayer visit. IRS employees will attempt to notify taxpayers by mail first before calling a taxpayer to set up an appointment or discuss an audit.
When the IRS assigns a taxpayer’s debt to a private debt collection agency, the IRS will send a letter to the taxpayer informing them that their case has been turned over to a private debt collection agency. The private debt collection agency will also send the taxpayer a letter confirming they have been assigned the taxpayer’s account. The private debt collection agency will only ask for payment to be made to the “U.S. Treasury”. They will not ask for payment on a prepaid debit or gift card; and will not take enforcement action.
The IRS continues to inform taxpayers of new and evolving tax scams that have been occurring and ways to help them avoid tax scams. Taxpayers should be wary of any situation which appears “too good to be true” to not open themselves up to unwanted scams.
If a taxpayer believes they have experienced an IRS impersonation scam, they should report their encounter on the “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” website here!
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