How private debt collection works
The IRS reminds people to be on the lookout for scam artists trying to dupe taxpayers as the private debt collection program begins.
Starting this month, a new program will transfer some long-standing tax bills over to private firms. The only outside agencies authorized to contact taxpayers about their unpaid tax accounts will be one of four firms authorized under the new private debt collection program. Even then, any affected taxpayer will be notified first by the IRS, not the private collection firm.
The private debt collection program, authorized under a federal law enacted by Congress in 2015, enables designated contractors to collect tax payments on the government’s behalf. The IRS will give taxpayers and their representative written notice when their account is being transferred to a private collection firm. The company will then send a second, separate letter to the taxpayer and their representative confirming this transfer. Information contained in these letters will help taxpayers identify the tax amount owed and help ensure that future collection calls are legitimate.
Here are four things scammers often do but the IRS and its authorized private collection agencies will not do. Any one of these things is a telltale sign of a scam – regardless of the language used.
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. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer deported or 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.
The IRS reminds non-native English speakers this tax season that they can easily identify when a caller supposedly from the IRS is a fake.
For taxpayers who don’t owe taxes or don’t think they do:
- 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” web page. Alternatively, call 800-366-4484.
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.
Stay alert to scams that use the IRS as a lure. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not just at tax time. For more information, visit “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” on IRS.gov.
Also, each taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore these rights and the agency’s obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.
If you are concerned about your tax bill, the IRS collection or payment process, or tax fraud, contact us at 216.831.0733 or [email protected]. We're happy to help and ready to talk to you.
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