With continuing phone and in-person scams taking place across the country, the IRS wants to help you understand how and why agency representatives may contact you.
In most instances, the IRS sends a letter or written notice to a taxpayer in advance, but not always. Depending on the situation, IRS employees may first call or visit with a taxpayer.
Here’s how taxpayers can know if a person calling or visiting their home or place of business is a legitimate IRS employee or an imposter. There are special instances where an IRS revenue officer or revenue agent may visit a home or business related to an unpaid tax bill or an audit; the IRS urges people with tax issues to understand the circumstances around these visits and also help protect themselves against imposters.
Text Messages: Frequently a Scam
The IRS does not send text messages including shortened links, asking you to verify some bit of personal information. These fraudulent messages often contain bogus links claiming to be IRS websites or other online tools. Other than IRS Secure Access, the IRS does not use text messages to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds.
If a you receive an unsolicited SMS/text that appears to be from either the IRS or a program closely linked to the IRS, the taxpayer should take a screenshot of the text message and include the screenshot in an email to email@example.com with the following information:
- Date, time and time zone they received the text message.
- Phone number that received the text message.
The IRS reminds everyone NOT to click links or open attachments in unsolicited, suspicious, or unexpected text messages whether from the IRS, state tax agencies or others in the tax community.
Email: Many Tax Scams Involve Email
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail. If a taxpayer receives an unsolicited fraudulent email that appears to be from either the IRS or a program closely linked to the IRS, report it by sending the email as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Report Phishing and Online Scams page at IRS.gov provides complete details.
Mail & Phone Contacts Are First Steps with a Tax Issue
Taxpayers will generally first receive several letters from the IRS in the mail before receiving a phone call. However, there are circumstances when the IRS will call, including when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill, a delinquent or unfiled tax return or has not made an employment tax deposit.
The IRS does not leave pre-recorded, urgent or threatening voice messages. Additionally, the IRS (and its authorized private collection agencies) will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card or gift card. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
- Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties. For anyone who doesn’t owe taxes and has no reason to think they do: Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately. For more information, see IRS warning: Scammers work year-round; stay vigilant.
In-person Visits: What to Know
IRS revenue officers generally make unannounced visits to a taxpayer’s home or place of business to discuss taxes owed or tax returns due. Keep in mind this important point: Taxpayers would have first been notified by mail of their balance due or missing return. A limited exception involves revenue officer contacts while working a small number of “alert” cases, designed to help businesses from falling behind on withheld employment taxes before a balance due notice is created or mailed. Revenue officers are IRS civil enforcement employees whose role involves education, investigation and when necessary, appropriate enforcement steps to collect a tax debt. A revenue officer will help a taxpayer understand their tax obligations as well as the consequences for not meeting the obligations.
IRS revenue agents will at times visit an individual, business or non-profit who is being audited. That taxpayer would have first been notified by mail about the audit and set an agreed-upon appointment time with the revenue agent. Also, after mailing an initial appointment letter to a taxpayer, an auditor may call to confirm and discuss items pertaining to the scheduled audit appointment.
When visited by someone from the IRS, the taxpayer should always ask for credentials or identification. IRS representatives can always provide two forms of official credentials: IRS-issued credentials (also called a pocket commission) and a HSPD-12 card. The HSPD-12 card is a government wide standard form of identification for federal employees.