One of the most common and effective scams is the phony telephone call purporting to be from the IRS telling you that you owe them money and must pay immediately or there will be dire repercussions. Often the calls from these scammers will even appear on your Caller ID to have come from the IRS which can be done through a technique called “spoofing.”
There always was a simple way to know if a collection phone call was from the IRS or a scammer. The IRS never initiates collection proceedings through phone calls so if you got a call, it was not from the IRS.
But that is changing this Spring.
Congress, in its infinite wisdom, is authorizing designated private collection companies to collect overdue taxes and contact people by phone in order to do so. The National Taxpayer Advocate office, which is an office within the IRS estimates about 380,000 taxpayers’ accounts will be turned over to these collection agencies.
Having private collection companies attempt to collect overdue taxes on behalf of the IRS was done in past years, but was not cost effective.
If your account has been transferred to a private collection agency by the IRS, you will be notified by regular mail before you receive any phone call. So if you receive a call attempting to collect money from you for overdue taxes before receiving such a notice, you can be sure that the call is a scam. However, even if you account has been turned over to a collection agency by the IRS, you can never be sure when you are called on the phone, that the person calling you is really from one of the IRS authorized collection agencies so the best course of action is to tell them politely that you cannot be sure that they are who they say they are and contact the IRS directly to straighten the matter out.
Complicating the matter is that while there are various tax forgiveness programs the IRS operates, these private collection agencies, who are paid on commission, are not required to tell you about these programs when they call, so you are always better off dealing with the IRS directly rather than through a collection agency.