IRS warns taxpayers about imposters and scams
When the phone rings and the person on the other end says they are from the IRS and demands immediate payment, it’s probably a scam. But how do you know when the IRS really is trying to get a hold of you about money owed?
When the IRS needs to contact a taxpayer, the first contact is normally by letter delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. The IRS doesn't normally initiate contact with taxpayers by email, nor does it send text messages or contact through social media channels. Depending on the situation, IRS employees may first call or visit with a taxpayer. In some instances, advance notice is provided in writing via a letter or notice, but not always.
When the IRS does reach out to taxpayer via phone, officers try to work directly with taxpayers to educate them about their options to resolve delinquencies and to collect delinquent taxes and tax returns; they do not threaten or harass taxpayers. IRS revenue agents or tax compliance officers may call a taxpayer or tax professional after mailing a notice to confirm an appointment or to discuss items for a scheduled audit.
Private debt collectors can call taxpayers for the collection of certain outstanding inactive tax liabilities, but only after the taxpayer and their representative has received written notice. Private debt collectors for the IRS must respect taxpayers' rights and abide by the consumer protection provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
IRS revenue officers routinely make unannounced visits to a taxpayer’s home or place of business to discuss taxes owed, delinquent tax returns or a business falling behind on payroll tax deposits. IRS revenue officers will request payment of taxes owed by the taxpayer; however, payment will never be requested to a source other than the US Treasury.
IRS revenue agents usually visit taxpayers or tax professionals to conduct the audit after either mailing a notice and/or agreeing on the day and time. IRS revenue agents will sometimes make unannounced visits to a taxpayer’s home or place of business to discuss a tax matter.
IRS criminal investigators are federal law enforcement agents who may visit a taxpayer’s home or place of business unannounced while conducting an investigation. They will not demand any sort of payment.
IRS representatives can always provide two forms of official credentials: a pocket commission and a Personal Identity Verification Credential (PIV). Pocket commissions describe the specific authority and responsibilities of the authorized holder. The PIV is a government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification for federal employees and contractors. Criminal investigators also have a badge and law enforcement credentials.
All tax payments are to the U.S. Treasury. Taxpayers should never use a preloaded debit card or wire transfer to make a payment. The IRS provides specific guidelines on how to make a tax payment at irs.gov/payments.
IRS employees and contractors will never be hostile or insulting or demand payment without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount. They also will never require a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card. IRS officers will never threaten lawsuits, arrest, deportation or other action for not paying, and they will never ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
If you think you have been threatened by a scammer, the IRS has a special page on IRS.gov, “How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door,” which helps taxpayers determine if a person claiming to be from the IRS is legitimate or an imposter.