IRS scams are happening more frequently. The scammers use the fear of the IRS to scare people into doing things they might not otherwise do, like using gift cards to make payments to them or giving them your bank account information.
Scammers often use threats of arrest or imminent collection action to get a victim to send money. Here are important things to know about IRS procedures, so you can avoid falling victim to various IRS Scams.
What Procedures Do the IRS Follow, and How Can I Spot IRS Scams?
The IRS will never make the first contact by phone. If you get an unexpected call from the IRS, you should hang up immediately. The IRS will not call, text, message, use social media or email you to notify you of a problem. The IRS’ first means of contact will always be a letter.
Further, if you receive a call that you are about to be arrested due to an IRS debt, this is also false. Again, the IRS would not contact you the first time by phone. If you are the subject of an IRS criminal investigation, they will send you a letter.
While many scammers will contact their victims by phone, some will try to scam you using a letter. If you receive a letter from the IRS, take steps to authenticate it. The IRS will list a letter number on the letter – if you google that letter number, you can often find an image of what that letter should look like. Further, in a legitimate IRS letter, the IRS will list your name and address (as it was on your tax return), the tax year at issue, the items on your tax return that are at issue, and the next steps you should take. They will often ask for information or documentation to support what was listed on your tax return. Review all of this information to see if it seems accurate or realistic. Lastly, the IRS will provide you with an address and phone number at which to contact them. You can google the phone number to see if it is really an IRS number, or you could contact the IRS on one of its publicly known phone numbers (not the phone number in the suspicious letter) to ask if the letter is legitimate.
This underscores the importance of keeping the IRS updated with your current address so that they can notify you of any issues by mail. The IRS will use the address on your last tax return as your address. However, if you move and have not yet filed a return with your new address on it, you can file IRS form 8822 to notify the IRS of your new address.
Additionally, if an IRS letter requests immediate payment to a person, rather than sending payment to the US Government, it is also a scam. Payment to the IRS can be made here.
Lastly, if you get a letter stating that you owe the IRS and must pay now, but you have not had prior contact from the IRS, you can verify whether the IRS shows you owe them money by requesting information about your tax account from the IRS’ website here. If you request a “tax account transcript” it will inform you if you have a balance due to the IRS. You can request a transcript from the IRS, here.
Need Help Handling the IRS? We Can Help
If you have received a communication from the IRS and you are not sure if it is real and are not sure what to do, contact us for help.