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How do you know if that’s really the IRS contacting you?

Posted on September 14, 2017

If you have been paying attention to the news, you know there has been a lot of phishing and outright fraud related to contacts “by the IRS.”

So how does one know if the IRS contact you receive is real?

According to our CPAs, when the IRS needs to contact a taxpayer, the first contact is almost always delivered by letter via the U.S. Postal Service. The IRS rarely initiates contact by email, nor does it send text messages, or contact taxpayers through social media channels.

Depending on the situation, however, an IRS employee may first call or visit with a taxpayer. Generally when this happens, advance notice is provided in writing via a letter or notice.

What our CPAs want you to know about IRS contact

First and foremost, as a taxpayer, you have rights. You should know that:

  • 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 may 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 may request payment of taxes owed by the taxpayer. However payments will never be requested to a source other than the US Treasury.
  • IRS revenue agents usually visit taxpayers (often with their CPAs or tax professionals) to conduct an audit after mailing a notice and/or agreeing on the day and time.
  • IRS criminal investigators are federal law enforcement agents who can and may, by law, visit a taxpayer’s home or place of business unannounced while conducting an investigation. However, they may not, by law, demand any sort of immediate payment during this visit.

How do you know your IRS agent or criminal investigator is legit?

IRS representatives must always provide two forms of official credentials: a pocket commission, describing their specific authority and responsibilities, and a Personal Identity Verification Credential (PIV). A PIV is a government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification for federal employees and contractors. Criminal investigators will also have a badge and law enforcement credentials.

IRS employees and contractors may never:

  • Be hostile or insulting
  • Demand payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount
  • Require a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card
  • Threaten lawsuits, arrest, deportation or other action for not paying
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

If you have been contacted by someone claiming to be from the IRS and you aren’t sure about their identity, give us a call. At TSPA, we want you to know your taxpayer rights and never fall prey to any type of scam.