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Every year, hundreds of thousands of people lose money to telephone scams. One of the most infamous scams is the IRS scam - and it is still on the rise. On July 19, the IRS issued its Tax Tip 2018-111, "Here's How the IRS Contacts Taxpayers", to help people avoid becoming a victim of scammers who pretend to be from the IRS with a goal of stealing personal information and ultimately his/her money.

Here are some facts about how the IRS communicates with taxpayers:

  • The IRS does not normally contact taxpayers by email.
  • The agency does not send text messages or contact people through social media.
  • When the IRS needs to contact a taxpayer, the first contact is normally made by mail. Fraudsters will mail fake documents, and in some cases will claim they already notified a taxpayer by US mail.
  • Depending on the situation, IRS employees may first call or visit with a taxpayer. In some instances, the IRS sends a letter or written notice in advance, but not always.
  • IRS revenue agents or tax compliance officers may contact a taxpayer or tax professional by phone, after mailing a notice to confirm an appointment or to discuss items for a scheduled audit.
  • Private debt collectors can call taxpayers for collection of outstanding inactive tax liabilities, but only after the taxpayer and their representative have received written notice.
  • IRS revenue officers and agents routinely make unannounced visits to a taxpayer's home or place of business to discuss taxes owed, delinquent tax returns or a business falling behind on payroll tax deposits. IRS revenue officers will request payment of taxes owed by the taxpayer. However, taxpayers should remember that payment will only be requested to the US Treasury. 
  • When visited by someone from the IRS, taxpayers should always ask for credentials. IRS representatives carry two forms of official credentials: a pocket commission and a Personal Identity Verification Credential.

If you are contacted by a scammer, immediately cease the call or delete the email and report the case to the IRS online or by calling 800 366 4484.