Dec 12, 2016
Most taxpayers are familiar with the IRS’ promise of not calling first. The IRS offers this assurance in an effort to combat scammers making unsolicited calls claiming to be IRS officials. However, this pledge has not been entirely accurate and lends to an explanation.
The IRS made such declaration with regard to phone calls made for the collection of taxes or requests for personal information. However, until recently the Internal Revenue Manual suggested the preferable way to schedule in-person field examinations was to make initial contact through phone calls. The IRS felt it was clear their previous assurance of not calling first related only to collection calls while calls to schedule audits were a completely different function. Unfortunately, the distinction is not as obvious to a taxpayer receiving a cold call from someone claiming to be from the IRS. Distinguishing between the two scenarios may be difficult. In an effort to avoid confusion, the IRS is changing their policy and will now send a notification of audit through the U.S. mail and will follow-up with a subsequent call to schedule an appointment.
This change in policy is the result of various complaints from attendees of a public forum held by the Taxpayer Advocate Service on May 5, 2016. The complaints argued taxpayers has received phone calls from the IRS to schedule audits, which contradicted the IRS’ assurance of never calling first. In response to these complaints, the IRS issued a statement that “in an abundance of caution and in light of pervasive phone scams seeking to extort money from taxpayers, the IRS has decided to adjust this policy for in-person field exams.”
This change in policy means the IRS will no longer make initial contact through phone calls, but will instead only contact taxpayers via for follow-up communication. An IRS Consumer Alert reminds taxpayers that the IRS will never do any of the following over the phone:
- Demand immediate payment
- Request you to verify your identity or ask for personal and financial information
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers
- Require the use of a specific payment method for your taxes, such as prepaid debit card
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying
By: Mark Sawyer, CPA