The IRS has a specific way of contacting taxpayers. And sometimes, this is done in person. But the IRS wants you to know what you should expect if you are contacted in person by an IRS agent so that you can avoid being the target of a scam.
Types of IRS Contact
With continuing phone scams and in-person scams rampant, the IRS wants taxpayers to understand how and when they contact taxpayers and to help them determine whether a contact is truly from an IRS employee.
While the IRS initiates most contact through regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, IRS employees do in fact make official, sometimes unannounced, visits to taxpayers as part of their routine casework. Visits typically fall into three categories:
Collection. In special circumstances (such as when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill or to secure a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment) IRS revenue officers will sometimes make unannounced visits to a taxpayer's home or place of business to discuss taxes owed or tax returns due. They will not demand that a taxpayer make an immediate payment to a source other than the U.S. Treasury.
Audits. IRS revenue agents will sometimes visit a taxpayer who is being audited. IRS employees conducting audits may call taxpayers to set up appointments, but not without having first notified them by mail. After mailing an initial appointment letter, an auditor may call to confirm and discuss items pertaining to the scheduled audit.
Criminal Investigation. IRS criminal investigators may visit a taxpayer's home or place of business unannounced while conducting an investigation. However, these are federal law enforcement agents, and they will not demand any sort of payment. Criminal investigators also carry law enforcement credentials, including a badge.
If an IRS representative visits a taxpayer, he or she will always provide two forms of official credentials called a pocket commission and a HSPD-12 card. The HSPD-12 card is a government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification for federal employees and contractors. Taxpayers have the right to see these credentials.
Will never demand that the taxpayer uses a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS will not ask a taxpayer for debit or credit card numbers over the phone.
Will never demand that the taxpayer pays taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say the taxpayer owes. Generally, the IRS will first mail the taxpayer a bill if he or she owes any taxes. The taxpayer should also be advised of his or her rights as a taxpayer.
Will never threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers, or other law-enforcement to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke a taxpayer's driver's license, business licenses, or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics that scam artists use to trick victims into buying into their schemes.
Private Debt Collectors
The IRS notes that it can assign certain cases to private debt collectors, but only after giving the taxpayer and his or her representative, if one is appointed, written notice. Private collection agencies will not ask a taxpayer for payment on a prepaid debit card or gift card.
Disclaimer: The items included in the Tax Tip Tuesday Video Blog are informational only and are not meant as tax advice. Consult with your tax advisor to determine how any item applies to your situation. IRS Circular 230 disclosure: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any U.S. federal tax advise contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein