For years, we (along with other consumer protection and law enforcement groups) have told consumers that the IRS will never randomly call you and tell you that you owe money. In fact, there are established guidelines the IRS follows for collection of unpaid taxes and a phone call will never be the first time you’re hearing from them.
However, a recent change to how the IRS collects unpaid taxes involves these very types of calls and it’s important that consumers be up-to-date on the topic in order to know the difference between a legitimate IRS call and the common IRS scam call.
Last year, Congress passed a law that enabled the IRS to use private collection agencies to collect unpaid taxes. Four specific agencies—CBE Group, ConServe, Performant, and Pioneer—were selected and are required to abide by the existing consumer protection provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, including only contacting consumers between the hours of 8:00A.M. and 9:00P.M. and refraining from contacting consumers about their debt at their place of work.
If you have overdue taxes, you may receive a letter from the IRS informing you that your account has been turned over to a private debt collection agency. This letter will provide the name and contact details of the firm. You will then receive a second letter from the assigned firm confirming that it will be handling your case.
Tips and guidelines to keep in mind:
- Keep all correspondence from the IRS and your assigned debt collection agency. Contact your assigned agency if a call or letter seems suspect.
- Be alert of any IRS scams. The IRS did not begin using private debt collectors until this month. Calls received prior to April 1 concerning debt collection should be treated cautiously.
- If you do not have any federal tax debt you will not be a part of this program or receive a call from the IRS. Additionally, this program targets those who have tax debt going back several years and have heard from the IRS multiple times. If you are uncertain whether you owe taxes, you can look-up your account by using irs.gov/balancedue
- Neither the IRS nor their private debt collectors will ever request or accept payment using prepaid cards or gift cards or wire transfers. Calls requesting such payment should be ignored or reported.
- Only send payments directly to the firm, IRS, or U.S. Treasury. All checks must be made payable to the “United States Treasury.”
If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for all Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws, data breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Program and the state’s Do Not Call Registry.
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