If you’re like me, you’ve received calls from the fake IRS.
Your first instinct when “the IRS” calls you is probably that it’s a scam.
But if you’re like a lot of people, you’ve started to experience doubts due to the sheer persistence of these IRS calls. After all, you don’t want to ignore the real IRS, right?
The IRS is Not Calling You.
But how can I be so sure?
The call is often automated. It usually threatens a civil lawsuit or a criminal charge – usually both. The fake IRS will leave voicemail.
The real IRS has some fairly serious privacy restrictions. The real IRS can’t leave a voicemail or use an automated message to inform you about your tax situation, because they don’t know who might listen to that message.
Let’s go beyond that and examine the threats.
The real IRS doesn’t sue you. It doesn’t need to sue you. If the IRS has determined you have tax debt, it has the power to file a lien, garnish your wages, seize assets, all without taking you to court. They have a long list of processes they need to follow before they can do all of that – but a civil lawsuit is not part of that process. Ever heard of Tax Court? You initiate that when you disagree with the IRS. You take the IRS to court when you disagree with it, not the other way around.
There is no criminal charge for unpaid tax debt. Criminal charges might stem from tax fraud. In that case, the IRS investigates the fraud and if they find enough evidence, they recommend that the Department of Justice files charges.
If you really think you might be under investigation for tax fraud, do not call the IRS. Call an attorney.
The fake IRS demands immediate payment over the telephone.
Real IRS agents can’t accept payment information over the telephone. They’re not allowed. You can’t do it. If you try, they’ll tell you to pay online through the IRS’ website or mail a check. That’s right – only the fake IRS demands phone payments.
The real IRS doesn’t call you.
Once in a while, when you initiate a phone call to the real IRS and the call is disconnected, a real IRS agent will call you back. But only the nice ones. And that’s when you’ve initiated a real conversation with them. The fake IRS calls you first 100% of the time, and they always return your call.
The real IRS has a process for initiating contact with you. First, they send you a letter.
So, what if you’ve moved recently and the letter is undeliverable? Wouldn’t the IRS call you then?
They’re still not calling you.
When the IRS can’t contact you via letter, your account is placed in an uncollectible status. When they are able to figure out where you live – for example, when you next file a tax return, or get a W-2 – they’ll try again. Stay tuned for installment #2 of The IRS is Not Calling You: Why do smart people fall for the fake IRS scam?