The Saline Courier Weekend
Is it really the IRS calling me? How to know if it’s really the government or a scam
During tax season, scams seem to run rampant. This year is no different. Many taxpayers have encountered individuals impersonating IRS officials – in person, over the telephone and via email. Don’t get scammed. Understanding how and when the IRS contacts taxpayers can help you determine whether a contact you may have received is truly from an IRS employee.
The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. However, there are special circumstances in which the IRS will call or come to a home or business, such as when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill, to secure a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment, or to tour a business as part of an audit or during criminal investigations. Even then, taxpayers will generally first receive several letters (called “notices”) from the IRS in the mail. The IRS does NOT:
• Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
• Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. You should also be advised of your rights as a taxpayer. https://www. irs.gov/taxpayer-bill-ofrights
• Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver’s license, business licenses, or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into buying into their schemes.
If you owe taxes, the IRS instructs taxpayers to make payments to the “United States Treasury.” The IRS provides specific guidelines on how you can make a tax payment at irs.gov/ payments.
If an IRS representative visits you, he or she will always provide two forms of official credentials called a pocket commission and a HSPD-12 card. HSPD12 is a government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification for federal employees and contractors. You have the right to see these credentials. And if you would like to verify information on the representative’s HSPD-12 card, the representative will provide you with a dedicated IRS telephone number for verifying the information and confirming their identity.
IRS collection employees may call or come to a home or business unannounced to collect a tax debt. They will not demand that you make an immediate payment to a source other than the U.S.
The IRS can assign certain cases to private debt collectors but only after giving the taxpayer and his or her representative, if one is appointed, written notice. Private collection agencies will not ask for payment on a prepaid debit card or gift card. Payment by check should be payable to the U.S. Treasury and sent directly to the IRS, not the private collection agency.
IRS employees conducting audits may call taxpayers to set up appointments or to discuss items with the taxpayers, but not without having first attempted to notify them by mail. After mailing an official notification of an audit, an auditor/tax examiner may call to discuss items pertaining to the audit.
IRS criminal investigators may visit a taxpayer’s home or business unannounced while conducting an investigation. However, these are federal law enforcement agents, and they will not demand any sort of payment.
Scams take many shapes and forms, such as phone calls, letters, and emails. Many IRS impersonators use threats to intimidate and bully people into paying a fabricated tax bill. They may even threaten to arrest or deport their would-be victim if the victim doesn’t comply.
For a comprehensive listing of recent tax scams and consumer alerts, go to https:// www.irs.gov/newsroom/ tax-scams-consumeralerts.
Contact information to report scams and more:
• Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report a phone scam. Use their “IRS Impersonation
Scam Reporting” web page. You can also call 800-366-4484.
• Report phone scams
to the Federal Trade
• Report an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or an Irsrelated component like the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, to the IRS at phishing@irs. gov
For more information concerning consumer fraud, contact the Saline County Extension Service at 501-303-56-72 or visit our office located in Benton at 1605 Edison Avenue, St 15. The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
This Week’s Recipe
If you sometimes feel like you have no funds and have “paid everything to _____” (fill in your own blank) try
Poor Man’s Pudding.
Once you know this was originally known as ‘Pouding Chomeur,’ that is a favorite FrenchCanadian dessert that originates from the Province of Quebec. Maybe you will feel spoiled by this recipe based on staple in the pantry. And for good reason - it is quick, easy, and oh so delicious!
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup white sugar 1/4 cup vegetable oil 1 egg
1 cup milk
2 cups brown sugar 1-1/2 cups hot water 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk the flour and baking powder together in a small bowl. Beat the white sugar, oil, and egg together in a bowl until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture alternately with the milk.
Pour into a 9-inch square pan. Dissolve the brown sugar in the hot water, then pour stir in the melted butter.
Drizzle the syrup over the pudding. Bake in the preheated oven until the pudding firms and becomes golden brown on top, about 40 minutes.