It seems that calls to protect my car with an extended warranty are now outnumbering the threatening calls I once got, supposedly from the IRS.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that scammers have given up pretending to be collection agents for the IRS.  For our protection, the IRS has published a fact sheet on how it communicates with taxpayers.  You can view Tax Tip 2021-124 on the IRS website, but here’s the gist of it.

  1. I have never seen an email from the IRS to a taxpayer because they are so rare. Be alert if you do get such an email. The email address should end in gov.  Never reply with confidential information, and it’s a good idea to let your tax preparer handle any response needed.
  2. You will NEVER get a text or contact through social media from the IRS. Do not engage if you do.
  3. The first contact by the IRS on any tax matter is generally through the Postal Service. Unfortunately that is not as reliable as it once was, but if your first contact about a tax debt is through anything other than the Postal Service, you should immediately be suspicious and respond cautiously or contact a trusted tax advisor.
  4. The government has now contracted with private debt collectors to contact some taxpayers for collection of past due liabilities. However, the taxpayer is always notified of this in advance by mail.  I can imagine it being difficult to know the difference between these legitimate collection agents and tax debt relief scammers.  If you have not received an underpayment notice in the mail and are contacted by anyone trying to collect a tax debt, do not send payment.  Contact your tax preparer.
  5. For me, I hate to see anything in my mailbox with a return address for the IRS. That’s bad enough, but in some cases the IRS may send an agent or agents, in person, to a taxpayer or tax preparer.  Usually, but not always, this visit is preceded by written notification confirming an appointment to meet.  Never engage in conversation without asking for credentials.  The IRS agent should produce two: a pocket commission and a Personal Identity Verification Credential.  If your visitor or visitors are from the IRS, payment may be requested.  Never make payment by anything other than a check payable to the Department of the Treasury.

You’ve seen these tips in our newsletter before, but IRS procedures have changed a bit, and the scammers have not gone away.  As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  When in doubt, involve your tax preparer before you respond to any contact from the IRS.

Article Submitted by – Lois S. Fried, CPA, CFE, CVA, ABV