Although taxation existed in one form or another, early American citizens did not have to pay so many taxes until the American Civil War. The Union-levied income tax on citizens to fund war efforts and created the Office of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue in 1862 as the government’s tax collector. The Office has since undergone reforms and reorganizations to become the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Today, the taxes collected by the IRS accounts for nearly 50 percent of the revenue needed to fund the Federal Government.
Although contacting the federal agency is not something every taxpayer looks forward to doing, concerned taxpayers may contact IRS Customer Service for several reasons. Some of these include reporting identity theft, disputing a tax assessment, appealing a collection action, and making general inquiries about taxes.
The IRS provides two ways to contact them. Depending on the circumstances, you may contact the IRS Customer Service by calling the toll-free number or making an appointment for a face-to-face meeting at your local IRS office. These are the only two ways a taxpayer may contact the IRS. Any other means of unsolicited contact, especially from unknown persons via phone calls, text messages, email, or social media, is a scam.
The IRS provides telephone assistance to concerned taxpayers who call these phone numbers:
Available 7:00 A.M. – 7:00 P.M.
Available 7:00 A.M. – 7:00 P.M.
Help is available 8:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.
Help is available 8:00 A.M. – 3:30 P.M. ET
Telephone assistance is available 8:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M. ET
Telephone assistance is available per help time set for other callers
Telephone assistance is available per help time set for other callers
Telephone assistance is available per help time set for other callers.
Calling IRS telephone assistance is one of two ways to get help for any problem you may have while preparing and filing your taxes. Due to a high volume of callers, the average wait time before you get an IRS assistant is about 15 minutes during the filing season and about 30 minutes during the post-filing season. However, this wait time varies with the number you call. For example, the wait time for individual taxpayers is longer than non-profit taxpayers. The best time to call IRS customer service is early in the morning before 10 A.M. Calling early in the morning is also advisable as the telephone assistor can schedule an earlier appointment at the local IRS office.
The IRS does not send text messages to taxpayers. All correspondence with the taxpayer is via mail. If you receive a text message from an unknown sender claiming to be an IRS agent, block the number and delete the message.
The IRS has a verified Twitter account for disseminating information to American taxpayers. However, the agency does not provide help through this account. Taxpayers who tweet about their issues must beware of impostors who contact them on the phone claiming to be an IRS agent assigned to their case. If you receive any such message, do not respond or provide any information. Block the user and report the account. Impostors often threaten taxpayers with some form of sanction or arrest – this is a scam. Rest assured that the IRS will notify you of any action or proceeding against you via mail sent to your residential address.
The telephone assistor will help you schedule a face-to-face meeting with an IRS agent at the local office if they cannot resolve your complaint on the phone. Concerned taxpayers must use the IRS Office Locator to schedule a meeting. Generally, you will need to provide your five-digit ZIP code and set a comfortable search radius. The locator will provide you with the address of the nearest local IRS office and the appointment number to call. You must call this number as soon as you can to set up an appointment.
IRS tax impostor scam is a year-round problem but increases during the filing season between January and April and the post-filing season between May and December. Here, a scammer impersonates an IRS agent and contacts an unsuspecting taxpayer by phone, text message, or email.
The IRS phone scam is the most common. It begins when a taxpayer receives an unsolicited call from an unknown number with the caller claiming to be a law enforcement officer or IRS agent. Callers who impose law enforcement tell the taxpayer that the IRS has an arrest warrant for their arrest for tax evasion or other tax-related crimes. The caller offers to make the arrest warrant go away or call off the arrest if the taxpayer sends them some money via gift cards and cryptocurrency.
Other times, the impostor calls the unsuspecting taxpayer and informs them they are under investigation for tax evasion or misrepresentation of data on their tax report. Like the law enforcement scam, the impostor also promises to make the investigation go away if the taxpayer sends them money.
Law enforcement and IRS agents do not request payments for any purpose over the phone. If you are under investigation for any tax-related issue, the IRS will send you a formal notice by mail before calling you by phone. The mail will also contain information on how to resolve the issue or respond. If you doubt any communication from the IRS, contact your attorney or accountant immediately. You may also call the IRS helpline or schedule a visit to the local IRS office.
Identity theft is a common issue with taxes. Here, fraudsters assume the identity of a taxpayer and file tax returns using their information. Generally, a fraudster only needs your tax ID number and name to scheme this fraud. They can easily make up required information like your employment background and income.
Identity theft affects both living and deceased taxpayers. Living taxpayers are at the risk of identity theft if they provide their personal information to unknown callers over the phone. Sometimes, fraudsters get this sensitive information from data leaks at reputable institutions like schools and hospitals. To protect yourself from identity theft, do not share sensitive tax information with unknown persons over the phone, especially if they called you first. Follow the guidelines for preventing and reporting this fraud on the IRS identity theft central. Better still, use a reverse phone search to confirm the identity of unknown callers.
The IRS does not send unsolicited emails to taxpayers, but that does not prevent fraudsters from sending phishing emails to steal your personal information or money. These emails follow the same pattern as phone scams – that is, you have a problem with the authorities and need to show good faith by paying some money to resolve it. Other times, the fraudster says the IRS did not receive your tax return and requests that you send it via email using the forms attached to the message.
The IRS does not accept tax returns via email. Taxpayers either use electronic tax filing or file their tax returns via regular mail. Furthermore, do not download any attachment from an unsolicited email claiming to be the IRS. Always get the tax forms you need from a reputable tax preparer or download the tax forms from the IRS forms and instructions page. Also, forward these phishing emails to email@example.com and delete the message.
In this IRS scam, the fraudster sends the taxpayer a link to a phony website created to mimic the appearance of the genuine IRS website. The website is interactive – looks and feels like the real one – but it prompts the unsuspecting taxpayer to provide their personal and financial information. However, there is a dead giveaway – the site address is not https://www.irs.gov. Instead, the domain names are clever mimics like http://irsgov.[numbers].com or http://irsgov.[letters].com.
For one, you will notice the address does not end with .gov, which is standard for all US government agencies. Furthermore, you will notice the website does not use a secure protocol (HTTPS) for communication. Instead, it uses HTTP, which does not secure the connection between your computer and IRS servers.
To avoid spoofed website scams, do not click on any IRS link from an unsolicited text message or email, even if the message is from a friend. Scammers often hack the social accounts of other people and send phishing links to their contacts. Furthermore, you can protect yourself by using secure web browsers, such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and Brave. These browsers have extra security features that warn you when you try to visit insecure websites. Also, report spoofed websites to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here, the scammer informs you that you have received payment from a US government agency, e.g., stimulus check from the Treasury Department or the IRS. However, the message will request that you provide sensitive personal information to confirm your identity before you can cash your check.
Other times, the messages claim you have lottery winnings but need to deposit taxes before receiving any of your winnings. Since the taxes are low, around 10 percent or less, many unsuspecting taxpayers fall for these advance-fee scams.
The IRS and the Treasury Department do not notify taxpayers of lottery winnings or inheritance. Furthermore, neither agency requires you to pay advance fees to claim public benefits. If you receive unsolicited phone calls, emails, or texts with this type of message, block the scammer and report the phishing attempt to the IRS at email@example.com.
Ghost tax preparers are unscrupulous individuals who help taxpayers prepare their tax returns but “forget” to sign them. Instead, they encourage the taxpayer to sign it themselves or promise to sign the return later. The IRS encourages taxpayers to use reputable tax preparers only. Concerned taxpayers may use the IRS directory to find recognized tax preparers in their area or use these tips for choosing a tax preparer.
Many IRS fraud schemes are sophisticated and often elude taxpayers. Still, there are tell-tale signs that can help you identify a phone or email scam:
No. The IRS only calls taxpayers who owe a significant amount of back taxes. The IRS will also contact taxpayers who are being field audited. Either way, the agency will send a mail notice first before an agent contacts you by phone.
Some of the common reasons taxpayers contact the IRS include:
IRS telephone assistance and agents at the local IRS office help several hundreds of taxpayers every day. Here are some tips for getting faster service and improving the odds of resolving your complaint successfully: