How to Know It’s Really the IRS Calling or Knocking

Scanners make money by impersonating the IRS – in person, over the telephone and via email. Don’t get scammed. The IRS wants you to understand how and when the they contact taxpayers and want to help you determine whether a contact you may have received is truly from an IRS employee.

First, the IRS initiates most contact with taxpayers through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. I have yet to see a case where they don’t.

Still, there are special circumstances in which the IRS will call or come to a home or business, such as:

  • when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill,
  • to secure a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment, or,
  • to tour a business as part of an audit or during criminal investigations.

Even then, taxpayers will generally first receive several letters (called “notices”) long before a visit. By then, you will know who you are dealing with before they knock. If they do visit, they will have two forms of identification. The criminal investigators are law officers, with badges and guns. Criminal investigators do not debt collect and don’t ask for payments.

For more information, visit “How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door” on IRS.gov. Much of the material at the IRS website is covered in this article.

Please Note that the IRS does not:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. You should also be advised of your rights as a taxpayer.
  • Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver’s license, business licenses, or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into buying into their schemes.

If you owe taxes:

The IRS instructs taxpayers to make payments to the “United States Treasury.” The IRS provides specific guidelines on how you can make a tax payment at irs.gov/payments. If you receive a letter or tax notice and you think it is genuine, you can contact me and I will help determine if it is legitimate. If it is, I can usually help you sort through the issue for a reasonable cost.

The IRS doesn’t mention the other folks who prey on taxpayers. Those with slick television advertisements that claim to be able to eliminate your tax debt or settle it for pennies on the dollar. Much of this cottage industry is based on luring you in with a too-good-to-be-true promise. I am not saying these firms are not legitimate, but most local CPAs can do just as competent a job at far less cost.

If you need help, contact me.  If I can’t help, I probably know someone who can.

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