You’ve just heard from someone claiming to be from the IRS. Now what? How can you tell if this person is legit or a scammer?
To avoid tax scams, it’s important to understand how and when the IRS contacts taxpayers. This will help you avoid scammers and pay attention when it really is the IRS.
The IRS Sends Notices in the Mail
The IRS usually reaches out to taxpayers through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service.
The IRS may also call or come to a home or business in special circumstances, such as:
- When a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill
- Secure a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment
- Tour a business as part of an audit or during criminal investigations
However, in most cases, taxpayers will first receive several letters, or notices, from the IRS in the mail.
Things the IRS Doesn’t Do
The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. The IRS also doesn’t threaten or pressure you to pay immediately. Tax scammers threaten and demand.
Call to Demand Payment
Scammers call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
Refuse You the Opportunity to Appeal or Question
Scammers demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. You should also be advised of your rights as a taxpayer.
Threaten to Have You Arrested or Revoke Your License
The IRS doesn’t threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver’s license, business licenses, or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into buying into their schemes.
What the IRS Will Do
Pay Taxes to US Treasury Only
When you do owe taxes, the IRS instructs taxpayers to make payments to the “United States Treasury.” Find the specific guidelines on how to make a tax payment at irs.gov/payments.
IRS Agents Provide Identification
You have the right to see credentials from IRS representatives. An official IRS representative will provide two forms of official credentials:
- A pocket commission
- HSPD-12 card, a government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification for federal employees and contractors. You can verify and confirm this person’s identity by calling a dedicated IRS telephone number that the IRS representative will provide.
Beware of Tax Scams
The IRS warns of dozens of scams and phishing schemes on their visit Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts page. Beware of IRS impersonators who use threats to intimidate and bully people into paying a fabricated tax bill.
You can fight back against scammers by:
- Reporting phone scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at: IRS Impersonation Scam Reportingweb page. You can also call 800-366-4484.
- Report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
- Report an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or an IRS-related component like the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, to the IRS at email@example.com.
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