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IRS Guidance to Avoid Tax Scams

By Tom Ochsenschlager, J.D., CPA

With IRS Fact Sheet FS-2022-33, the IRS recognized that taxpayers have been subjected to phone and in-person scams that allege to be from the IRS. The Fact Sheet provides guidance to enable taxpayers to recognize a scam.

FS-2022-33 clarifies the following.

Text or Email Messages

If a taxpayer receives an email message reportedly from the IRS, they should not respond but forward it as an attachment to phising@irs.gov. For text messages, the IRS requests that they take a screenshot of the message, include the date, time and phone number that received the message, and send it to phising@irs.gov.

Contacting Taxpayers by Phone

The IRS will never call a taxpayer or leave an urgent or threatening voice message that threatens the taxpayer and demands payment with a prepaid debit, gift or credit card. Taxpayers receiving such a call should merely hang up immediately.

In-person Visits

Although the IRS will occasionally do an in-person visit to a taxpayer’s home or business, generally they will do so only after the taxpayer has been notified by mail of a balance due or a missing return or that there will be an audit of the taxpayer’s return.

An exception to the requirement of an advance notification by mail is the so-called “alert” situation where a taxpayer is in danger of falling behind on withheld employment taxes. Before such a visit commences, the taxpayer should request the visitor’s HSPD-12 federal employee card and IRS-issued credentials (also called a pocket commission).

Significant Issues Not Addressed

The Fact Sheet does not provide any guidance related to taxpayers’ representatives. Specifically, it should address when the IRS should first contact the taxpayer’s representative, especially a representative who holds a Power of Attorney, before corresponding with the taxpayer by mail, email, phone or in-person visit. And, if the IRS’ initial contact is with the taxpayer, the IRS should be required to suggest/encourage the taxpayer to contact their tax representative before responding to the IRS inquiry.  

Resolving Tax Issues

There are several payment alternatives available for taxpayers to pay their federal tax liabilities. Payments can be made on the IRS Online Account utilizing IRS Direct Pay or pay by debit card, credit card or digital wallet. Taxpayers unable to make a payment should apply for a payment plan on IRS.gov. The IRS recently expanded voice bot options that enable taxpayers to avoid long wait times to verify their identity when setting up or modifying a payment plan.

Understanding how the IRS contacts taxpayers; Avoiding scams and how to know it’s really the IRS reaching out | Internal Revenue Service

Fiscal Year 2022 Statutory Review of Restrictions on Directly Contacting Represented Taxpayers (treasury.gov)

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