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ASK THE EDD ATTORNEY – HOW CAN YOU TELL IF THE IRS AGENT IS THE REAL DEAL?

By Robert S. Schriebman

2017

Introduction

This Article is being written on Halloween 2017. This day is all about costumes and fantasies – we are not what we appear to be. The next day we take off our costumes and get back to reality. However, for crooks masquerading as IRS agents, the costume does not come off and some of us become victims of fraud and deceit.

Throughout 2017 I have tried to keep you informed of the latest taxpayer's scams and what you can do to protect yourself. We have discussed identity theft, phony tax refunds, and over-the-phone scams. It all seems overwhelming and that the bad guys are winning. There is some good news. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen recently announced that the number of identity thefts and phony tax refund attempts have fallen about two-thirds since 2015. Literally hundreds of thousands of potential taxpayer identity theft cases have been prevented. We all have to be very thankful for the hard work of dedicated IRS employees who have made this possible.

But the crooks are not deterred. In 2018 we can expect new and creative attempts at identity theft that will border on the side of brilliance. We just have to be smarter than they are.

Let's get ready for 2018 by taking a look at how we can determine whether the person who claims to be from the IRS is really wearing a costume. On October 30, 2017 the IRS issued Tax Tip 2017-67 entitled "How to Know If the Knock On Your Door Is Actually Someone From the IRS." This press release discussed several things to know about in-person IRS contacts.

Is the IRS Person Real or Fake?

I have been practicing tax law for the better part of 50 years. That's a long time. Over the years I have had many in-person meetings with IRS agents, collectors, and attorneys. It's no problem when I am visiting an IRS office to determine if the people I am talking to are the real deal. They have all been screened, issued ID cards, and have official employee identification numbers. How about IRS meetings in my office or at my client's home or place of business? If I do not know the IRS person, I ask for ID before the meeting gets underway.

The IRS press release informs you of several ways to tell if an IRS contact is genuine. Let's look at the most important ones.

  • Most IRS contacts are done through the US mail by either regular mail or certified mail. Usually certified letters are sent by IRS Collectors and inform taxpayers that they are in danger of facing an IRS levy or lien. Certified letters also inform taxpayers of their right to a Collection Due Process hearing (CDP).
    • Never fail to go to the post office to pick up an IRS certified letter. Yes, these letters create a high level of anxiety, but they usually advise taxpayers of their rights to avoid enforced collection action such as a bank account levy or wage garnishment. They could be a good thing!
    • Some phony IRS letters look like the real thing. In fact they have been so close to real in appearance that I have sent them to the IRS so that the sender can be stopped. If you are not sure whether the letter is genuine, take it to a tax professional.
  • It is rare that the IRS will knock on your door without prior written notice. When can this happen?
    • When a taxpayer has a history of failure to pay employment and withholding taxes.
    • As part of a criminal investigation.
    • A required visit to a taxpayer's business as a routine part of an audit.

The IRS has had severe manpower cuts and this prevents them from making many personal visits.

  • IRS tax collectors, known as Revenue Officers, will make personal contacts when the amount owed is substantial or when a taxpayer fails to respond to prior contacts.
    • IRS Revenue Officers carry two forms of official identification. You are allowed to see both forms.
    • The IRS is now hiring private debt collection agencies to collect past bills. The IRS will notify you in advance that your deficiency has been assigned to a private collection agency. However, private collection agencies are not allowed to visit a taxpayer's home or business.
  • The IRS will tell you to make your payment to the "US Treasury," and no one else. If you are told to make your payment otherwise, you are dealing with a crook.
  • You will only be audited by the IRS after receiving official written notice in the mail. No one from the IRS will call you cold to demand an audit appointment. If you are called for an audit, without first having been sent written notice, your caller is a phony.

Conclusion

You must always be on-guard for identity theft and phony IRS calls. It's a good idea to assume that any call from the IRS is a fake unless you have received prior written notice in the mail. If you have any doubt if the call is genuine, ask for the caller's official identification number, take the caller's phone number down, and consult with a reputable tax professional. You can also report the call by going to your computer and visiting "IRS.gov" for information about how to report tax scams. Make that IRS contact because the IRS is working hard for all of us to stop these scams.

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Robert Schriebman has a successful practice in the Rolling Hills Estates area of Los Angeles County serving clients throughout California and the United States. He has successfully dedicated more than 40 years to helping individual taxpayers, business owners, CPAs, Enrolled Agents, and tax attorneys navigate the complicated tax systems of the federal and state governments.

Robert Schriebman has written the only 2 books ever published dealing with how California Employment Development Department (EDD) operates. See "California Tax Collection Practice and Procedures" and "California Taxation Practice and Procedure," both published by Commerce Clearing House.

Robert Schriebman has written over 20 books including the major manual used nationally by practitioners and the IRS, "IRS Tax Collection Procedures – A Manual for Practitioners" published by Commerce Clearing House.

Robert Schriebman has written over 20 books including the major manual used nationally by practitioners and the IRS, "IRS Tax Collection Procedures – A Manual for Practitioners" published by Commerce Clearing House in addition to the only 2 books ever published dealing with how California Employment Development Department (EDD) operates. See "California Tax Collection Practice and Procedures" and "California Taxation Practice and Procedure," both published by Commerce Clearing House.

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