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Friday May 24, 2019

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Protect Yourself by Knowing How the IRS Makes Contact

One of the primary ways to protect yourself from tax scammers is to understand the IRS' policies for contacting taxpayers. In IR-2018-12, the Service shared specifics on IRS contact policies.
  1. When & How - The IRS will normally contact taxpayers through the U.S. Postal Service. However, there are some special circumstances in which the IRS may make a home or business visit. These could include an overdue tax bill, a delinquent tax return or to tour a business. However, even in those cases the taxpayer will normally receive a letter prior to the visit.
  2. Telephone Policies - The IRS has policies in place to reduce the risk of taxpayers being confused by tax scammers. The IRS will normally call after sending a letter. It will not demand immediate payment. The IRS also will not threaten arrest from local police, deportation by immigration officers or revocation of one's driver's license. Any of these tactics suggests that the caller is not an IRS employee and is instead a tax scammer. Tax scammers will frequently use false names or phony IRS identification badge numbers. The IRS emphasizes that it does not demand immediate payment or make threats over the phone.
  3. Official IRS Visits - Generally the IRS will send one or more letters or notices by mail prior to any visit. If an IRS employee does make a visit, he or she must provide official credentials. The IRS employee will have an HSPD-12 identification card. You have a right to see his or her credentials. Even if an IRS employee makes a personal visit, he or she will not demand immediate payment. All payments should be sent to the U.S. Treasury.
  4. Email Contacts - The IRS will not normally initiate contact through email. Your initial contact should be through a letter. If you receive an email claiming to be from the IRS, be cautious and do not click on any links. Tax fraudsters will send emails promising information about refunds, filing status or other personal data. These are not official communications from the IRS. The IRS does not use email or text messages to discuss a tax debt or refund.
  5. Private Debt Collectors - Four private debt collection agencies are permitted to make contact with taxpayers to collect overdue tax debts. The IRS starts the process by sending you a letter indicating that the case has been turned over to one of the four qualified agencies. Only one agency will be permitted to contact you. The agency representative must identify himself or herself and all payments must be made to the U.S. Treasury.

Published June 1, 2018
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