Beware IRS Phone Scams


by Susan Allen, CPA, CITP, CGMA, Lead Technical Manager – Taxation 

We are hearing growing concerns from our members about IRS phone scams – someone calls pretending to be an IRS employee, trying to collect taxes and threatening various types of enforcement actions. Unfortunately, there are numerous examples of this type of fraud around the country. Just last week, on Sept. 14 in Minnesota, Benton County Sherriff’s Officereminded residents to be wary of callers claiming to be from the IRS. Law enforcement received complaints from victims about a caller who said there is a warrant out for the victim’s arrest and payment is needed immediately to clear up the issue. In other recent news in South Carolina, scammers called victims threatening to sue them if they didn’t pay the IRS. Luckily, in the South Carolina instance the victim was a tax professional’s wife, who had her husband listening to the call, informing her that this was a scam.

IRS and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration involvement
The IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) continue to hear from taxpayers about this issue. Based on more than 290,000 complaints that TIGTA has received since October 2013 through its telephone hotline and online form, TIGTA has identified approximately 3,000 victims who have lost an estimated $14 million from these scams (TIGTA press release, Jan. 21, 2015).

“There are clear warning signs about these scams, which continue at high levels throughout the nation,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA or the IRS.”

Tips to keep your clients avoid being caught in a trap

The IRS will never:

  • Ask for a credit card, debit card, or prepaid card information over the phone.
  • Insist that a taxpayer use a specific payment method.
  • Request immediate payment over the phone, nor will it take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers would receive prior written notification in the mail of enforcement actions (the IRS doesn’t contact taxpayers to request personal or financial information via email either).

If any of you receive a phony IRS call, immediately contact us. You can also report the incident to TIGTA by calling (800) 366-4484 or by using TIGTA’s online form. Taxpayers can also file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant (add “IRS telephone scam” to the comments in the complaint). Additionally, taxpayers should forward any scam emails to