The information in this article is up to date for tax year 2022 (returns filed in 2023).
Many taxpayers have been contacted by individuals pretending to be the IRS. We’re here to help you identify and avoid scams, as well as how to handle one if it happens to you. Learn how to spot a real IRS notice from a fake one here.
How will the IRS contact me?
Most of the time, the IRS contacts taxpayers by mail. They might call you if you have not responded via mail. And they may visit your business or your tax preparer’s office to meet with you in the event of a more complicated audit.
Will the IRS call me?
There are some circumstances in which the IRS could call you. Generally, calls from the IRS are rare due to their lack of personnel dedicated to making the calls and because of many phone scams related to the IRS.
Why would the IRS call me?
Typically, the IRS will only call you if you owe a significant amount of back taxes or if they field audit you. In either of these cases, the IRS will send you a notice by mail first before they attempt to contact you by phone.
Will I know if the IRS is going to call me?
Yes, you will know if the IRS is going to call you in advance. They will have already sent you a notice informing you of the issue before they try to directly speak with you.
What information will the IRS request over the phone?
As mentioned above, the only time you can trust that a call is truly from the IRS is if you received a notice in advance. Once you are contacted directly, the IRS agent may ask for a variety of information – from Social Security numbers to information from prior year tax returns.
For more information on phone calls with the IRS, visit the IRS website.
How can I tell if an IRS call is a scam?
If you have not received communication from the IRS in the mail prior to receiving a phone call, it is probably fake. Also, the IRS will not ask you to pay over the phone. They will direct you to an online payment portal on their official website.
You can always ask for credentials to test whether it is fake as well. If they are a real agent, they will be able to show you a Personal Identity Verification Credential (PIV).
The real IRS will not:
- Be hostile
- Call to ask for immediate payment in any form, especially gift card or wire transfer
- Demand payment without the opportunity to appeal the amount
- Ask for your credit card number over the phone
- Threaten to bring in law enforcement if you do not pay
- Threaten to take away your driver’s or business license or immigration status
Read How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door for more info.
How should I handle a scam call?
The simple answer is to not speak back to them and to just hang up. They typically want money, so if you don’t engage, they can’t do anything to harm you.
Who can I contact if I am being scammed?
You can always contact the IRS at 800-829-1040. Do not respond to the scammer directly. Here are some more options:
- Report a phone scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Go to FTC.gov and use the FTC Complaint Assistant. Make sure to note it is an IRS telephone scam.
- Report a phone scam to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report a phone scam. Use the RS Impersonation Scam Reporting option or call 800-366-4484.
- Report an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you don’t owe taxes, call or use the contact form for the TIGTA to report the incident. The number is 800-366-4484 or you can go online and use the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting option.
Tips to spot and avoid tax scams
Know that the IRS will never call you out of the blue, conduct business via email, or demand you to pay a balance immediately. If you suspect that a scammer is contacting you, don’t answer. Block their phone number or email address and don’t engage further.
For more tips to help you determine if you’re talking to a scammer, read 5 Signs of an IRS Scam.
How should I pay the IRS if I really owe taxes?
If you have determined that the IRS is really contacting you to pay back taxes or other fees, the tax payments will only be to the U.S. Treasury. The IRS provides guidelines on how to make a tax payment here.