The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY)

Be­ware of bo­gus col­lec­tion com­pa­nies that of­fer to set­tle tax debt

- Staff re­port Business · Tax Credit · Taxes · Society · Income Tax · Fraud · Personal Finance · White-collar Crime · Crime · New York · New York City

NEWYORK » TheNewYork­S­tateDepart­ment of Tax­a­tion and Fi­nance alerted tax­pay­ers to a va­ri­ety of scam­let­ters be­ing mailed to New York­ers that of­fer to as­sist in set­tling out­stand­ing tax debt.

The Tax De­part­ment is not send­ing th­ese let­ters, nor are th­ese com­pa­nies af­fil­i­ated with New York State or work­ing on its be­half in any way. To help New York­ers pro­tect them­selves, the Tax De­part­ment has posted ex­am­ples of bo­gus col­lec­tion let­ters to its website and shared tips on how to spot a scam, how to re­port it, and how to get the most ac­cu­rate informatio­n about any taxes owed to New York State.

“Th­ese cal­lous fraud­sters, at­tempt­ing to prey upon un­sus­pect­ing vic­tims amid a pandemic, will be held ac­count­able for their ac­tions,” New York State Com­mis­sioner of Tax­a­tion and Fi­nance Michael Sch­midt ex­plained.

“I urge New York­ers to be vig­i­lant be­cause th­ese let­ters have been land­ing in mail­boxes across New York. If a let­ter seems sus­pi­cious, please check with us,” Sch­midt added.

Scam­mers of­ten use scare tac­tics to get you to share your per­sonal and fi­nan­cial informatio­n with them. They may:

• de­mand im­me­di­ate pay­ment for a tax debt;

• threaten you over the phone, pos­si­bly with po­lice ac­tion or de­por­ta­tion; or

• de­mand you pay in a spe­cific way, such as through pre­paid debit cards or in per­son.

The Tax De­part­ment never threat­ens ar­rest or re­vo­ca­tion of pass­ports. A le­git­i­mate let­ter from the de­part­ment will in­clude:

• Tax De­part­ment logo;

• a com­plete re­turn mail­ing ad­dress;

• an op­tion to re­spond online, by phone, or by mail;

• the Tax De­part­ment website ad­dress;

• a de­tailed ex­pla­na­tion for why it was sent; and

• an ex­pla­na­tion of your rights as a tax­payer.

A le­git­i­mate pri­vate col­lec­tion agency will:

• pro­vide its con­tact informatio­n so you can re­spond to phone calls and let­ters;

• pro­vide Tax De­part­ment con­tact informatio­n; and

• never use email, text mes­sages, or so­cial­me­dia to re­quest or dis­cuss your per­sonal or tax informatio­n.

How you can pro­tect your­self:

• If you re­ceive a threat­en­ing phone call re­gard­ing your taxes, hang up im­me­di­ately.

• Never agree to meet any­one who claims to be a tax rep­re­sen­ta­tive in per­son to hand over pay­ment for a debt.

• Don’t pro­vide per­sonal informatio­n in an email or click sus­pi­cious links in an email ask­ing for per­sonal informatio­n.

To pro­tect your­self, you may wish to cre­ate an Online Ser­vices (OLS) ac­count to more ef­fi­ciently han­dle tax mat­ters with New York State. With an OLS ac­count, you can view any out­stand­ing tax bills and re­lated no­tices, and elec­tron­i­cally pro­vide ad­di­tional informatio­n about your tax re­turn if nec­es­sary. This is the­most ef­fi­cient, se­cure, and ac­cu­rate way to com­mu­ni­cate with the Tax De­part­ment.

If you think you’ve been con­tacted by an im­pos­tor or fraud­ster claim­ing to be fromthe New York State Tax De­part­ment or a col­lec­tion agency, visit the Tax De­part­ment’s Re­port an im­per­son­ation scam to learn how to re­port it. The Tax De­part­ment promptly re­views each com­plaint and takes cor­rec­tive ac­tion when ap­pro­pri­ate.

How pri­vate col­lec­tion works:

The Tax De­part­ment does oc­ca­sion­ally work with pri­vate debt col­lec­tion agen­cies. How­ever, the De­part­ment no­ti­fies a tax­payer by let­ter that their col­lec­tion case could be trans­ferred to a pri­vate col­lec­tion agency.

The pri­vate agency will then at­tempt to con­tact th­ese tax­pay­ers by mail and by phone to re­solve the bal­ance due. The con­trac­tor is au­tho­rized to dis­cuss pay­ment options, in­clud­ing set­ting up an In­stall­ment Pay­ment Agreement (IPA) with tax­pay­ers. How­ever, all pay­ments must be made di­rectly to the New York State De­part­ment of Tax­a­tion and Fi­nance.

Col­lec­tion agen­cies are re­quired to re­spect tax­payer rights and com­ply with all ap­pli­ca­ble fed­eral, state, and local laws. In ad­di­tion, the pri­vate firm can’t take en­force­ment ac­tions against any tax­payer or as­sets lo­cated within New York State.

Tax­pay­ers shouldn’t re­spond to calls if they’re un­aware of hav­ing any tax debt. To check for un­paid tax debt, they can cre­ate an Online Ser­vices ac­count or con­tact the NYS Tax De­part­ment at 518- 457-5434.

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