Just When You Think You Know The Drill

For years, tax professionals have counseled their clients to avoid tax scams.

Key to those admonitions: The IRS rarely makes unannounced house calls. An Agent or Officer might drop by during an examination or investigation - but they usually call or write you first. [*1]

That generalization is about to change:According to Internal Revenue Bulletin IR 2020-34: "As part of a larger effort to ensure compliance and fairness, the Internal Revenue Service today announced that it will step up efforts to visit high-income taxpayers who in prior years have failed to timely file one or more of their tax returns."

The Service will target those making, but not reporting, at least $100,000, based on prior returns or documents filed by third parties like employers and financial institutions.

The Service touts the new program as a broad fairness measure: "Those who play by the rules want to see those who've been delinquent 'pay their fair share as well,' " While that is certainly among the Service's motivations - Cynics may see the effort as social management - combating perceptions that the agency has settled for going after low-income taxpayers on compliance issues while giving less attention to high-income taxpayers.

Whatever the Service's motivation, the scammers are almost certain to seize the opportunity the initiative provides. We expect a wave of "IRS Impersonators" to descend on hapless businesses - demanding immediate payment of non-existent obligations.

On the theory that an ounce of prevention is worth ... Well, you know the rest of that cliche:

  • Ask for identification if someone claims they are from the IRS. IRS representatives carry a pocket commission and a Personal Identity Verification Credential.

If you are still not convinced - decline to meet with the putative Agent. Call or visit the agent at your local IRS walk-in office to determine whether you are actually under review.

This also seems like a good time to remember some other fundamental behaviors that Impersonators employ:

  • Agents almost never initiate contact via personal visits, telephone, email, text, fax or twitter. Almost all initial contacts are made via US postal mail.

  • Agents don’t demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Most agencies first mail a bill to anyone who owes taxes.

  • Agents don’t demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount. Most agencies have a “taxpayer bill of rights that mirrors the IRS’s Your Rights as a Taxpayer.

  • Agents don’t threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to arrest you. Most cannot (and don’t threaten to) revoke your driver’s license, business licenses, or immigration status.

  • Agents carry a pocket commission and a Personal Identity Verification Credential. Ask for these documents if someone claims they are from the IRS.

Just so you know what to look for: Agent identification almost always includes one or another of the Service Logos. (See the reproduction here - Photo Credit: IRS dot Gov)

[*1] Significant exception - IRS Criminal Agents almost always arrive unannounced - travel in pairs, like nuns - and have the faint whiff of gun-oil about them. They also carry distinctive credentials.

#TaxAudits #DirtyTricks

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