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Knowing how the IRS contacts taxpayers can help protect people from scammers

27th July 2022
 

Issue Number: Tax Tip 2022-114


Knowing how the IRS contacts taxpayers can help protect people from scammers

Scammers often pose as the IRS to steal taxpayers’ personal information. They may reach out through fraudulent phone calls, emails, texts or social media messages. It’s important for taxpayers to understand how the IRS contacts people, so they don’t fall victim to identity thieves.

Generally, the IRS will mail a notice or letter to a taxpayer first.

  • Taxpayers can search IRS notices by visiting Understanding Your IRS Notice or Letter. However, not all IRS notices are searchable on the site.
  • Be aware that fraudsters sometimes claim they already notified the taxpayer by mail or reference an IRS notice to make their scam seem legitimate.
  • Taxpayers may check their secured online account or contact the IRS to confirm legitimacy of a notice.
  • Debt relief firms often send unsolicited tax debt relief offers through the mail.

The IRS may send taxpayers a notice about filing past due tax returns. They should send their past due return to the address provided in the notice.Taxpayers can use the prior year forms, instructions and publications on IRS.gov to file past due returns or they can work with a tax professional.

After mailing a notice or letter, the IRS may call a taxpayer.

  • 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. The IRS encourages taxpayers to review, How to Know it's Really the IRS Calling or Knocking on Your Door: Collection.
  • The IRS does not leave pre-recorded, urgent or threatening messages. In many phone scams, victims are told if they do not call back, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. 
  • Private debt collectors, contracted by the IRS, can call taxpayers to collect certain outstanding inactive tax liabilities, but only after the taxpayer and their representative have received written notice.
  • Private debt collection shouldn’t be confused with debt relief firms who will call, send lien notices or email taxpayers with debt relief offers.

The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.

  • Taxpayers shouldn’t reply to a phishing email from someone who claims to be from the IRS, because the email address could be spoofed or fake. Emails from IRS employees will end in IRS.gov.

The IRS doesn’t send text messages or contact people through social media.

  • 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 also will not send taxpayers messages via social media platforms.
  • Scammers may text a taxpayer with a phony message about COVID-19 or "stimulus payments." These messages often contain bogus links claiming to be IRS websites or other online tools.
  • Fraudsters also will impersonate legitimate government agents and agencies on social media and try to initiate contact with taxpayers.

IRS revenue officers and agents may make in-person visits.

  • IRS revenue officers and agents 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, taxpayers should remember that payment will never be requested to a source other than the U.S. Treasury.
  • When visited by someone from the IRS, taxpayers should always ask for credentials. IRS representatives can always provide two forms of official credentials: a pocket commission and a Personal Identity Verification Credential.


More information
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Secure tax payment options

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