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IRS issues guidelines to deter scammers

Expecting a call from the IRS?

It seems that this time of year, after the normal tax filing season comes to an end, taxpayers may expect the IRS to contact them. That is unlikely, of course, unless there is an audit or collection underway. In those cases, the IRS may indeed write, call or even pay you a visit.

“(T)here are special circumstances in which the IRS will call or come to a home or business, such as when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill, to secure a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment, or to tour a business as part of an audit or during criminal investigations,” according to an IRS note released last month.

As a taxpayer, you would normally be aware the IRS may be calling or visiting if you are in this type of situation.

But what if there are no tax issues? What if the “IRS” agent is a scammer?

That could be the case, as the IRS warned in the release IR-2018-129: “IRS continues warning on impersonation scams; Reminds people to remain alert to other scams, schemes this summer warning that you need to be aware of.”

The release says the IRS wants you to know that it will never:

“>> Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. … Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties.

>> 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.”

If you do get contacted, this is the IRS’ advice in the release:

“>> Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.

>> Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting webpage:

>> Report the caller ID and/or callback number to the IRS by emailing it to (Subject: IRS Phone Scam).

>> Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on Add ‘IRS Telephone Scam’ in the notes.”

If you get a text message or are contacted through social media by the “IRS,” that’s not the IRS.

“Scams take many shapes and forms, such as phone calls, letters and emails,” according to the IRS. “Many IRS impersonators use threats to intimidate and bully people into paying a fabricated tax bill. They may even threaten to arrest or deport their would-be victim if the victim doesn’t comply.”

If you do get contacted by the IRS, before you respond, read the tip sheet “Avoid scams: Know the facts on how the IRS contacts taxpayers” at This gives you a full description of how the IRS normally contacts taxpayers.

Also, watch this helpful video made by the IRS:

Julie Jason is a personal money manager at Jackson, Grant of Stamford, Conn., and an award-winning author. Contact her at

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