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How to spot IRS scams a mile away

The 2018 tax filing season is here and tis the season for a reminder to beware of IRS scams. According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration “TIGTA” (the body charged with oversight of the IRS) it is estimated that 10,000 victims have collectively paid over $54 million as a result of phone scams since October 2013. Even us tax practitioners are not immune from landing on the scammers phone list. I was harassed for a week in December 2017 by the opportunistic vultures.

There were two primary phone numbers that called me: (415) 251-9309 and (207) 922-9023. All the calls I received (six in total) left a robo-voice message. The 415-area code caller claimed to be Officer Katherine Hill instructing me to call her hotline before legal action is taken against me. The 207-area code caller does not identify herself but claims my lack of response (to what, I’m not sure) is considered a deliberate fraud and lawsuit has been filed under my name by the United States government.

Fortunately, as a practicing CPA, I know these calls are scams. Sadly however, many people aren’t as informed and fall for these tricks. Who wouldn’t be alarmed at being accused of fraud or being sued by the government?

4 things the IRS will never do

  1. The IRS will never contact you via phone or email demanding payment or threatening legal action. The IRS has very strict procedures for collecting delinquent tax. You will receive no less than 5 written communications from the IRS requesting/demanding payment before you will ever have a revenue agent phone you or turn up at your home or business location.

  2. The IRS will never demand payment without giving you the right to object, verify, or appeal the amount due.

  3. The IRS will never demand payment in forms other than good ol’ US Dollars mailed to an IRS office. It will never require payment via Paypal, prepaid debit cards, virtual currency, foreign currency, Western Union, or gift cards.

  4. The IRS will never threaten to contact local law enforcement to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS cannot revoke your driver’s license or professional license or have you deported. In the unlikely event that you are so incredibly naughty to warrant arrest (which excludes most of you reading this), the IRS has its own law enforcement agents (“CI”, Criminal Investigation) that will arrest you but, for most of you, that will happen after you have been well informed of criminal charges. Also note: IRS CI will never demand payment. Demanding payment is tasked to a revenue agent.

When in doubt, assume you are being scammed and contact the TIGTA here or the IRS here.

With all the new tax law changes coming in 2018, I expect to see an increase in scam calls to prey on uninformed and weary tax payers. Don’t be the next victim.