Protect against scammers

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to avoiding tax scams. Here’s what taxpayers need to know to determine whether an encounter — in person, over the phone or by email — is an imposter or an actual IRS employee:

The IRS does not:

• Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.

• Demand taxpayers pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.

• Threaten to have someone arrested for not paying.

• Threaten to revoke someone’s driver’s license, business licenses or immigration status.

The IRS does:

• In general, first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.

• Normally initiate contact with taxpayers through mail delivered by the United States Postal Service.

• Present official identification when visiting a taxpayer. Taxpayers have the right to see these credentials, and — if they would like — the representative will provide them with a dedicated IRS phone number for verifying the information and confirming their identity.

• Call or visit a home or business under certain circumstances. This includes when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill, to secure a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment, or to tour a business as part of an audit or criminal investigation. Even then, taxpayers will generally receive several letters from the IRS in the mail first.

• Assign certain cases to private debt collectors, but the IRS gives written notice to the taxpayer and their appointed representative before contact from a private collection agency.

• Offer several payment options. Payment by check should be payable to the U.S. Treasury and sent directly to the IRS, not a private collection agency.

Tax Tips are provided by the Internal Revenue Service.