With phone and in-person scams saturating the country, the IRS has released information to help taxpayers understand how and why agency representatives may reach out. Almost always, the IRS will send a letter to you in advance, but not always. Depending on the situation, IRS employees may first call or visit. The information below will help you decide if a person calling or visiting your home or office is who they say they are or an imposter.
Text messages: Predominately a scam
Other than IRS Secure Access, the IRS does not use text messages to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds. The IRS does not send text messages or shortened links asking the taxpayer to verify personal information. These fraudulent messages often contain bogus links claiming to lead you to IRS websites.
If you receive an unsolicited text that appears to be from the IRS, screenshot the text message and send it via email to [email protected] along with the following information:
• Date, time, and time zone you received the text message
• Phone number that received the text message
DO NOT click links or open attachments in unsolicited or suspicious text messages whether from the IRS or any other sender.
Email: Likely a scam
The IRS will not email you to request personal or financial information. Initial contact will arrive through regular mail. If you receive an email that appears to be from either the IRS or a program closely linked to the IRS, report it by sending the email as an attachment to [email protected]. The Report Phishing and Online Scams page at IRS.gov provides more details.
Mail and phone: Be on guard
The IRS will typically send you several letters before calling. The circumstances in which you may receive a call include an overdue tax bill, a delinquent or unfiled tax return, or a delinquent employment tax deposit.
If you have filed a petition with the U.S. Tax Court, you may receive a call from an Appeals officer to review the tax dispute and address resolution. The Appeals officer will always state their name, badge number, detailed contact information, docket number, and specifics about your case.
They will never ask for credit card or banking information. If an Appeals officer cannot reach you by phone, they may leave a general voicemail message including the self-identifying information listed above.
The IRS will not leave pre-recorded, urgent, or threatening voice messages. Additionally, they will never:
• Call you to request immediate payment using a prepaid debit card or gift card.
• Threaten to have local police arrest you for not paying a tax bill.
• Demand you pay your taxes without giving you the opportunity to appeal the bill.
• Ask for credit or debit card information over the phone.
If you don’t owe taxes and have no reason to think you do: Do not supply any personal information over the phone. Hang up immediately!
Pro-tip: If you do owe money, you should make checks payable only to the U.S. Treasury, never a third party.
In-person visits: Know the facts
Under certain circumstances, IRS revenue officers will make unannounced visits to a taxpayer’s home or place of business. You would first be notified by mail of the reasoning.
According to the IRS, “A limited exception involves revenue officer contacts while working a small number of ‘alert’ cases, designed to help businesses from falling behind on withheld employment taxes before a balance due notice is created or mailed. Revenue officers are IRS civil enforcement employees whose role involves education, investigation and when necessary, appropriate enforcement steps to collect a tax debt. A revenue officer will help a taxpayer understand their tax obligations as well as the consequences for not meeting the obligations.
IRS revenue agents will at times visit an individual, business or non-profit who is being audited. That taxpayer would have first been notified by mail about the audit and set an agreed-upon appointment time with the revenue agent. Also, after mailing an initial appointment letter to a taxpayer, an auditor may call to confirm and discuss items pertaining to the scheduled audit appointment.”
If someone knocks on your door claiming to be with the IRS, always ask for identification.
Financial Professionals do not provide specific tax/legal advice and this information should not be considered as such. You should always consult your tax/legal advisor regarding your own specific tax/legal situation.