Taxpayers Beware: Summertime Tax Scams are on the Rise by Joseph L. Saka, CPA/PFS
Posted on August 01, 2017 by Joseph Saka
Tax-related scams are casting a dark cloud over the typically blue skies and sunshine-filled days of the summer months. During this time of easy living, people must remain vigilant against new and often aggressive schemes that can comprise their personal information and financial security and leave them as yet another victim of identity theft.
In this new twist on an old scheme, scammers posing as IRS officials call taxpayers to say that because two certified letters about an outstanding tax bill were undeliverable, the taxpayer must make an immediate tax payment via a specific prepaid debit card or face arrest. Victims are told that the debit card is linked to the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), which is a free service offered by the U.S. Department of Treasury that allows taxpayers to pay federal taxes online or by phone. The problem is that the debit card the scammers demand taxpayers purchase is, in reality, it is controlled entirely by the scammer.
To avoid falling victim to this scam, taxpayers should remember that the IRS will never call them to demand payment without giving them the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed. In addition, the IRS will never threaten a taxpayer with arrest nor will it ask for a credit or debit card payment over the phone. Rather, all tax payments must be payable only to the U.S. Treasury.
“Robo-call” Message Scams
Taxpayers who receive a prerecorded message claiming to be from the IRS should know that the agency will never leave a voice-mail message demanding an immediate call back. Individuals fall victim to this scam when they call back and are threatened with arrest unless they make immediate payment by a specific prepaid debit card or by wire transfer.
Private Debt Collection Scams
Taxpayers should be on the lookout for scammers posing as private collection firms demanding payment of an outstanding tax liability. While it is true that the IRS has engaged private-sector collection agencies to recover a limited number of taxpayers’ overdue federal tax liabilities, taxpayers will first receive a notice from the IRS advising them of the debt and the name of the collection agency.
Scams Targeting People with Limited English Proficiency
Taxpayers who are not proficient in English may receive phone calls or emails in their native language from someone claiming to be from the IRS. The caller will tell victims that they owe the IRS money and threaten deportation or police arrest unless they make an immediate tax payment on a preloaded debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Again, taxpayers must remember that the IRS will never call or email them about an outstanding tax liability, nor will the agency ever demand payment via debit card, credit card or wire transfer. The only acceptable method for paying taxes is doing so directly to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
If a taxpayer believes that he or she owes taxes, it is important to remember the following points:
1. The IRS’s primary method for contacting taxpayers is through regular U.S. Postal Mail.
2. Never give out person information over the phone or via a link to a website.
3. Taxpayers may call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040 to verify or debunk any purported tax liabilities and requests for payment
4. Individuals may access their tax accounts, potential liabilities and options for payment online at IRS.gov, or they may request that their accountants obtain these transcripts on their behalf
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 consulting and compliance services, business advice, and financial planning services to entrepreneurs, high-net-worth families and family companies and business executives in the U.S. and abroad. He can be reached at the firm’s Miami office at (305) 379-7000 or via e-mail at email@example.com.