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IRS Warns Taxpayers about the Latest Phishing Schemes by Joseph L. Saka, CPA/PFS

Posted on March 19, 2019 by Joseph Saka

According to the IRS, the 2019 tax-return filing season has been plagued by a surge in fake emails, text messages, websites and social media posting in which criminals attempt to steal taxpayers’ personal information. To protect themselves and avoid becoming victimized, taxpayers must take some basic security steps, remain cautious and stay alert to recognize the warnings signs of these pervasive schemes.

Among the various methods that criminals use to prey on victims and get them to divulge their personal information are elaborate phishing attempts that begin with legitimate-looking emails purporting to come from the IRS a collection agency or another government agency with links to fake but convincing website landing pages and/or shortened URLs to social media postings.

In one scheme, thieves use taxpayers’ own bank accounts. After stealing a taxpayer’s social security number or other personal data, criminals file fraudulent tax returns and use the taxpayer’s bank account to direct deposit tax refunds. The thieves then pose as the IRS or other agency to reclaim the refund from the taxpayer.

One of the more advanced phishing schemes targets payroll professionals, human resource personnel, schools and other organizations that are trusted with taxpayers’ personal or financial information. Depending on the variation of these business email compromise scams (BECs) or business email spoofing (BES) scams, victims will typically receive a legitimate-looking email from a criminal posing as:

  • a business asking the recipient to pay a fake invoice,
  • as an employee seeking to re-route a direct deposit, or
  • as someone the taxpayer trusts or recognizes, such as an executive within the company, who asks for a wire transfer.

Criminals may then use the email credentials from a successful phishing attack, known as an email account compromise, to send phishing emails to the victim’s email contacts. Malicious emails and websites can infect a taxpayer’s computer with malware without the user knowing it. The malware downloads in the background, giving the criminal access to the device, enabling them to access any sensitive files or even track keyboard strokes, exposing login victim’s information.

The IRS’s Security Summit partners encourage taxpayers and the keepers of their personal information to be wary of communicating solely by email, especially when they involve requests that are out-of-the-ordinary or when they involve personally identifiable information. Always pick up the phone and call the employee, executive or client to confirm their identity and veracity of the email request. In addition, remember that the IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers or request personal financial or information via email, text message or social media.

If you receive an unsolicited email or social media attempt that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it to the IRS by forwarding the message to phishing@irs.gov.

About the author: Joseph L. Saka, CPA/PFS, is CEO of Berkowitz Pollack Brant, where he provides a full range of income and estate planning, tax and business consulting and compliance services, and financial planning expertise to entrepreneurs, high-net-worth families and family companies and business executives in the U.S. and abroad. He can be reached at the CPA firm’s Miami office at (305) 379-7000 or via e-mail at info@bpbcpa.com.

IRS to Require Certain Taxpayers to Begin Paying User Fees Electronically in August by Andreea Cioara Schinas, CPA

Posted on July 07, 2017 by Andreea Cioara Schinas

Beginning on August 15, 2017, taxpayers who request letter rulings, closing agreements and certain other rulings from the Internal Revenue Service will have no other option than to make user fee payments electronically using the federal government’s Pay.gov system.  Previously, these taxpayers were permitted to pay user fees by check or money order.

 

Affected taxpayers can remit payment online using a credit card, debit card or via direct debit or electronic funds withdrawal from a checking or savings account by visiting www.pay.gov and entering “IRS Chief Counsel User Fees” in the Search Forms box.  Once an electronic payment is made, taxpayers must either print a copy and mail or hand deliver it to the IRS along with original, signed ruling request and supporting materials, or they may fax the payment receipt and ruling request to the IRS at 877-773-4950.

 

Taxpayers may petition the IRS, in writing and prior their filings of tax returns, to request status for tax purposes or the tax effects of his or her acts or transactions.  In response, taxpayers will receive from the IRS Chief Counsel written determination letters that represent how the IRS interprets the tax laws to apply to the taxpayers’ specific facts and circumstances. User fees can range from $200 to $28,300, depending upon the type of ruling being sought.

 

Navigating communications with the IRS on one’s own can be challenging. Therefore, taxpayers should consider engaging the assistance of qualified accountants and CPAs who have years of experience working with these IRS to resolve personal and business tax account matters.  The advisors and accountants with Berkowitz Pollack Brant work with domestic and foreign individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations to manage IRS issues, build wealth, maintain tax efficiency and comply with complex regulatory requirements.

 

 

About the Author: Andreea Cioara Schinas, CPA, is a director with Berkowitz Pollack Brant’s Tax Services practice, where she provides corporate tax planning for clients through all phases of business operations, including formation, debt restructuring, succession planning and business sales and acquisitions.  She can be reached in the CPA firm’s Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., office at (954) 712-7000, or via email at info@bpbcpa.com.

 

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