Are Americans vulnerable to tax scams?

The Internal Revenue Service recently issued a warning against tax scams. The problem is more widespread than readers may realize: almost 4,000 Americans may already have lost over $20 million due to such deceitful tactics.

How could such fraud happen? One method of contact may be via written correspondence on authentic looking letterhead. Notably, those letters may not immediately request payment, but simply financial information from their recipients. In several recent blogs, we have emphasized that IRS communications should not be ignored. Unfortunately, victims may have thought they were following that advice, only to later discover that their cooperation was misplaced.

Another method of contact may be via telephone. For those with caller ID, the scammers may appear like they are calling from an agency. In fact, they may even reference an actual IRS office address, even if they are not calling from that location. 

The IRS urges Americans not to give payment over the phone. Indeed, the IRS offers a comprehensive administrative process by which tax questions or disputes can be discussed. Before agreeing even to legitimate collection efforts, a taxpayer could also benefit from a consultation with a tax lawyer. 

For starters, a lawyer who focuses on tax law understands that the IRS must follow certain notification and/or collection procedures. After a tax assessment is made, the IRS is required to give several notices to the taxpayer, seeking payment. Those letters generally contain instructions for requesting a hearing with the Appeals Office of the IRS or other means of challenging the amount due. In fact, an appeal may be available even if a lien has already been filed against a taxpayer’s property, or a levy initiated. Check out our firm’s website to learn more about the IRS' notice and collection procedures.

Source: Internal Revenue Service, “IRS Warns Taxpayers to Guard Against New Tricks by Scam Artists; Losses Top $20 Million,” Aug. 6, 2015

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