One of my favorite mantras has long been, “If they’re calling you on the phone, it’s not the IRS.”
That’s because so many scammers use spoofed caller ID information to impersonate the agency to trick victims into wiring money or purchasing gift cards. The IRS uses letters when they need to talk to you.
Then I ran across this article from last year: IRS does sometimes call taxpayers.
But, if you actually read the article (and please, always read the article and not just the headline), two things become clear. First, it seems the (very rare) phone calls were happening because agents were using old procedures that predate IRS impersonation scams, and the IRS is working to eliminate these types of first-contact calls.
Secondly, and most importantly, none of the calls were about the taxpayer owing money that needed to be paid immediately via wire transfer or gift card. The legitimate calls were made solely to schedule appointments to discuss an audit. No personal information was requested, no threats of arrest were made, no payments were demanded.
Now, just because they say they’re going to stop calling people (at least as a first contact) doesn’t mean change will be immediate. In a large organization, new procedures can be slow to implement. There may be an isolated incident here and there where an actual IRS agent calls a taxpayer about scheduling a meeting before a letter is sent. So I’ll amend the old mantra: “If they’re calling you on the phone and demanding money, it’s not the IRS.”
That should cover all the bases for now.