THE IRS TO STOP INITIATING AUDITS BY TELEPHONE

NSTPFraud, Fraudulent Tax Refunds, Identity Theft, Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

a81ad2a2-a318-4773-ba66-bc1d0c941540The Internal Revenue Service plans to stop notifying taxpayers by telephone when they are subject to an in-person field examination, in an effort to avoid confusion with phone scammers. Instead, all such notifications will come by mail. The policy shift follows reports in Tax Analysts’ Tax Notes Today that attendees of a public forum held last week by the Taxpayer Advocate Service complained that they had received phone calls from IRS employees trying to set up audits. The comments caught Nina Olson, National Taxpayer Advocate, by surprise and she responded that she was not aware of audits being initiated by phone. Later, she said that she was told that the Internal Revenue Manual did instruct revenue agents that the preferred method for initiating taxpayer contact for audit was by phone. Those claims contradict repeated pledges by IRS Commissioner John Koskinen’s to taxpayers that the IRS never calls first. The IRS added that the vast majority of its initial audit contacts are handled by sending a letter first, but in some of the in-person field audits, the IRS may contact the taxpayer or their representative by phone to schedule an appointment to begin the audit. “This phone contact is followed up with an appointment letter confirming the appointment”, the IRS statement continued. “This has been a longstanding policy at the IRS and we have no indication that criminals claiming to represent the IRS on the phone have said they were calling to set up an appointment for a meeting.” The IRS confirmed that protecting taxpayers from identity theft remains a priority. In response to concerns about IRS phone calls, the IRS released the following statement, reflecting a change in policy: “Phone scams from con artists are one of the biggest challenges facing taxpayers. Generally, phone scam callers are focused on masquerading as an IRS collection agent and demanding immediate payment of money. While the vast majority of initial audit contacts are handled by sending a letter first, in some of our in-person field audits, a small percentage of our overall audits, the IRS may contact the taxpayer or their representative by phone to schedule an appointment to begin the audit. This phone contact is followed up with an appointment letter confirming the appointment. This has been a longstanding policy at the IRS and we have no indication that criminals claiming to represent the IRS on the phone have said they were calling to set up an appointment for a meeting. However, 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. The IRS will implement a policy to notify taxpayers in this smaller exam category first via mail that their return has been selected for audit and then contact them to schedule an appointment. The protection of taxpayers and their rights remains a top priority for the IRS. We are committed to working with our partners across government and the private sector to stop these scammers from preying on taxpayers.”