Letter from the IRS

Every year the IRS mails millions of letters to taxpayers for many reasons. Here are some tips and suggestions for taxpayers who receive one:

Don’t ignore it. Most IRS letters and notices are about federal tax returns or tax accounts. Each notice deals with a specific issue and includes specific instructions on what to do.

Don’t panic. The IRS and its authorized private collection agencies do send letters by mail. Most of the time all the taxpayer needs to do is read the letter carefully and take the appropriate action.

Do take timely action. A notice may reference changes to a taxpayer’s account, taxes owed, a payment request or a specific issue on a tax return. Taking action timely could minimize additional interest and penalty charges.

Do review the information. If a letter is about a changed or corrected tax return, the taxpayer should review the information and compare it with the original return. If the taxpayer agrees, they should make notes about the corrections on their personal copy of the tax return, and keep it for their records.

Don’t reply unless instructed to do so. There is usually no need for a taxpayer to reply to a notice unless specifically instructed to do so. On the other hand, taxpayers who owe should reply with a payment.

Do respond to a disputed notice. If a taxpayer does not agree with the IRS, they should mail a letter explaining why they dispute the notice. They should mail it to the address on the contact stub at the bottom of the notice. The taxpayer should include information and documents for the IRS to review when considering the dispute. The taxpayer should allow at least 30 days for the IRS to respond.

Do remember that there is usually no need to call the IRS. If a taxpayer must contact the IRS by phone, they should use the number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. The taxpayer should have a copy of the tax return and letter when calling.

Do avoid scams. The IRS will never initiate contact using social media or text message. The first contact from the IRS usually comes in the mail.

 

Phone call from the IRS

The IRS and its partners – the state tax agencies and the tax industry – urge taxpayers to remain alert to tax scams year-round, especially immediately after the tax filing season ends. Even after the April deadline passes, the tax scam season doesn’t end.

While many of the scams are variations on a theme and tend to evolve over time, taxpayers should be on the lookout for any attempt to get them to disclose personal information like Social Security numbers, account information or passwords. If in doubt, don’t give it out. Those receiving such calls should hang up and initiate correspondence with the agency that is purportedly inquiring about their account using a well-known phone number or email address. Clicking on links provided in emails or calling back unfamiliar phone numbers is not recommended.

Phone scams

The IRS does not call and leave pre-recorded, urgent messages asking for a call back. In this tactic, the victim is told if they do not call back, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Other variations may include threat of other law-enforcement agency intervention, deportation or revocation of licenses.

Criminals are able to fake or “spoof” caller ID numbers to appear to be anywhere in the country, including from an IRS office. This prevents taxpayers from being able to verify the true call number. Fraudsters also have spoofed local sheriff’s offices, state Department of Motor Vehicles, federal agencies and others to convince taxpayers the call is legitimate.

Email phishing scams

If a taxpayer receives an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or a program closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by sending it to phishing@irs.gov.

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. The IRS initiates most contacts 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 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.

Telltale signs of a scam:

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, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments. 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.
  • For anyone who doesn’t owe taxes and has no reason to think they do:
  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call.
  • Report the caller ID and/or callback number to the IRS by sending it to Phishing@irs.gov (Subject: IRS Phone Scam).
  • The IRS does not use text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds.