The IRS recently announced that it has hired four debt-collection firms to search American households for IRS bills. The agency said that the contractors will concentrate on overdue accounts that it does not have the time or manpower to pursue. However, that being said, taxpayers can still mistake legitimate calls for a tax-collection scam.
That is not hard to imagine as the IRS has already experienced a 400% increase in schemes that have to do with phishing. In March, the Treasury Inspector General, who manages IRS activities, stated that its office received over one million reports of telephone scams involving fake tax collection during a period beginning in October 2013. About 5,500 people have lost, in total, $29 million.
Clues that Indicate A “Debt Collector” is Not with the IRS
Following are some clues that an IRS call is a scam:
- You didn’t receive a letter
Under the new program for tax collection, the IRS is supposed to mail a written notice that it is going to turn your account over to a collection agency. Then, one of the agency’s four collection agencies will send a letter to you verifying the transfer. That agency is the only agency that should be calling you.
- The caller asks you pay the agency for collection
Contracted agencies are not permitted to accept payments on behalf of the IRS. They also are not allowed to ask for a remittance on a prepaid debit card. Instead, they should refer you to IRS.gov for electronic payment options. Checks, on the other hand, should be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and sent to the IRS itself.
- You already have initiated repayment
The IRS will not assign your account to a private collector if you already have an installment agreement with them.
- The caller does not care that you are deployed or living in a disaster area
The IRS does not turn over past due accounts of taxpayers who are living in Presidentially declared disaster locations or who are deployed in combat zones. However, that does not mean you still don’t owe taxes. You just have to deal with the payment at a later date.
- The caller wants a payment from a deceased person or minor
People who are deceased or under 18 years of age may show outstanding debts. However, according to the IRS, these accounts will not be referred to private collection agencies.
- The caller does not care that you are already working with the IRS on a specific problem
Private collection agencies working for the IRS are not allowed to handle tax-related cases involving identity theft, examinations, litigation, levies, criminal investigations, and similar circumstances.
- The caller is unprofessional and rude
Private collection agencies must abide by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. That means they cannot threaten you or show any type of unprofessional behavior.
So, if you have a current tax bill, beware. Be wary of any so-called collection agency that behaves in an unprofessional manner, or who exhibits one of the aforementioned behaviors.