IRS to use private debt collectors amid huge telephone scam

But Congress passed a law in 2015 requiring the IRS to restart the program. If you think you may owe back taxes, hang up and contact the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040.

Taxpayers who will be contacted by outside collection firms will receive a publication to alert them to their rights.

"The important thing to remember is that the IRS never does an initial contact via email or via phone call", Hill said. "The IRS also urges taxpayers to be on the lookout for scammers who might use this program as a cover to trick people". Affected taxpayers will only be assigned to one of them.

The program will begin this week with a few hundred taxpayers receiving mailings and subsequent phone calls, with the program growing to thousands a week later in the spring and summer.

An independently reviewed study by the IRS found that IRS employees are three times more efficient at collecting taxes than private tax collectors.

IRS officials say they are anxious about scammers who may try to masquerade as a legitimate IRS-approved debt collector, which is why they've added precautions, such as alerting taxpayers in writing that their past due accounts are being turned over to a PCA.

Seven former IRS commissioners who served in both GOP and Democratic administrations have written, "Over the last fifty years, none of us has ever witnessed anything like what has happened to the IRS appropriations over the last five years and the impact these appropriations reductions are having on our tax system".

The four companies the IRS has selected to handle collections are CBE, ConServe, Performant and Pioneer.

"You won't get a call from a private collection firm unless you have unpaid tax debts going back several years and you've already heard from the IRS multiple times", Koskinen said in a statement.

The private collectors will be able to identify themselves as contractors of the IRS collecting taxes.

The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) has long opposed the use of private collection agencies (PCAs) to chase delinquent taxpayers because it has proven to be inefficient, unfair to lower-income taxpayers, and it opens doors for fraud and abuse.

Only send payments directly to the IRS.

If a taxpayer doesn't file and claim the refunds by the deadline, the refund cash becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury. All checks must be made payable to the "United States Treasury".

See www.irs.gov/payments for information on payment plans and options.

The collectors also are not authorized to take enforcement actions against taxpayers (e.g., filing a notice of a federal tax lien or issuing a levy).

The IRS had private debt collection programs in the past that led to net losses for the federal government. And they "must be courteous and must respect taxpayer rights", according to the agency.

Vermont's Attorney General's Office says the state has seen a 25 percent increase in telephone scams over the a year ago.

"Here's a simple rule to keep in mind".

If you're one of those people who waits until April 14 to start on your tax return, beware.

"And by far the most prevalent telephone scam in the state of Vermont is the IRS tax scam", Donovan says.

For example, say your W-2 shows $65,200 of income, and you accidentally input $62,500 on your return and calculate your tax bill accordingly. "Runners" in the USA were responsible for getting scammed funds into bank accounts, a laundering process aided through wire transfers and prepaid debit cards.

· Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.

You can avoid this penalty by making sure estimated taxes are regularly paid.

· Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. They told unsuspecting victims that they had failed to pay taxes or were at risk of deportation, and that a fast payment was needed to get out of trouble.

For more information, visit the "Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts" page on IRS.gov.

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