Is that the IRS Calling, or is it a Scam?

by | Aug 28, 2018 | IRS, Tax Advice

Most of us have heard stories about innocent people receiving scam calls from someone posing as an IRS agent threatening immediate legal action and arrest if they don’t immediately make a payment. Perhaps even you have received one of these calls. Here’s what you need to know about how the IRS gets in touch with taxpayers:

Contact with the IRS almost always begins with a letter. In almost all cases, if the IRS wants to contact you, they’ll send a letter first. If you do get a letter, bring it to our office immediately so we can help you out.

The IRS doesn’t normally use email or phone calls as the first way to contact someone. Those means might be used only if they’ve exhausted all other methods of contacting someone, and those people generally know that the IRS is after them.

The IRS NEVER uses social media to reach out to taxpayers. The IRS uses social media strictly for education, not to go after taxpayers.

If you do get a call from someone who says they’re from the IRS, hang up. If you’re concerned that it might be real, your best bet is to contact us. With a power of attorney, we can contact the IRS on your behalf and determine if it’s real or bogus. And once the IRS does have that signed power of attorney, they won’t call or visit you. They have to work with us.

The IRS has NO authority to revoke your driver’s license, business license or immigration status. The IRS has NO authority to arrest you or to send law enforcement or immigration officers after you. Anyone who threatens any of these things is a scammer.

The IRS NEVER accepts payments with gift cards or prepaid debit cards. The only ways to pay a legitimate tax debt are with a check made payable to the U.S. Treasury or with an official online payment mechanism, which we discussed here.

The IRS NEVER demands payment without an opportunity to appeal the amount owed. If you owe taxes, you’ll get a bill from the IRS. If you bring that to us immediately, we can determine if you really owe that amount. We’ll help you settle any debt to the IRS for the smallest possible amount.

Revenue agents from the IRS do occasionally make surprise visits, but they generally let you know by letter that they want to meet with you. This might happen if your business is behind on payroll taxes, or if there’s an outstanding tax liability. In most cases, taxpayers in these situations are aware that they owe taxes. It’s not a complete surprise. If you’ve been filing tax returns and paying your taxes consistently, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

Ask for a badge number and proof of their credentials. All IRS employees carry two forms of official identification — a pocket commission and a Federal identification card. If they can’t — or won’t — share these with you, they’re not from the IRS.

The best way to protect yourself against scam artists impersonating the IRS is to keep these pointers in mind. Be aware that scammers are getting more sophisticated, so keep your wits about you if something doesn’t seem right. For more information, go to, or call our office.

Schanel & Associates is a CPA firm specializing in accounting, tax, business valuation and litigation support serving Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie Counties and beyond since 1993. Our CPAs and accounting professionals work with individuals, businesses, estates and trusts to provide everything you need under one roof. For more information, contact us today at 561-624-2118.

Glenn Schanel is the founding Principal of Schanel and Associates. Glenn Schanel is a CPA with over three decades of experience helping people and organizations manage, make sense of and benefit from their finances. He oversees areas that include auditing, accounting, tax, business valuation, forensic accounting, litigation support and other consulting services to both business and individual clients.