Editor's Note: This blog post is from the IRS's website. Click here to view the IRS's original post.
Many taxpayers have encountered individuals impersonating IRS officials – in person, over the telephone and via email. Don't get scammed. We want you to understand how and when the IRS contacts taxpayers and help you determine whether a contact you may have received is truly from an IRS employee.
The IRS initiates most communication through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service.
However, there are special circumstances in which the IRS will call or come to a home or business, such as:
- Visiting a taxpayer with an overdue tax bill
- Securing a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment
- Touring a business as part of an audit or during criminal investigations
Even with the above situations, taxpayers will generally first receive several letters (called “notices”) from the IRS in the mail.
Note that the IRS does not:
- Demand that you use a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS will not ask for your debit or credit card numbers over the phone.
- Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes. You should also be advised of your rights as a taxpayer.
- Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver's license, business licenses, or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into buying into their schemes.
If you do owe the IRS taxes: The IRS instructs taxpayers to make payments to the “United States Treasury.” The IRS provides specific guidelines on how you can make a tax payment at irs.gov/payments.
Here is what the IRS will do: If an IRS representative visits you, he or she will always provide two forms of official credentials called a pocket commission and a HSPD-12 card. HSPD-12 is a government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification for Federal employees and contractors. If you're unsure as to whether someone is really from the IRS, then ask to see these credentials – it's your right!
IRS AuditIRS employees conducting audits may call taxpayers to set up appointments, but not without having first notified them by mail. After mailing an official notification of an audit, an auditor/tax examiner may call to discuss items pertaining to the audit. Learn more about the IRS audit process.
IRS criminal investigators may visit a taxpayer's home or business unannounced while conducting an investigation. However, these are federal law enforcement agents and they will not demand any sort of payment. Check out these blog posts for more info:
Beware of Impersonations
Scams take many shapes and forms, such as phone calls, letters and emails. 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 individual doesn't comply.
For a comprehensive listing of recent tax scams and consumer alerts, visit> Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts.
Know Who to Contact
- Get in touch with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report a phone scam; contact info is available on the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page. You can also call 800-366-4484.
- Report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on reportfraud.ftc.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
- Report an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or an IRS-related component like the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, please view the IRS's website about tax fraud.