Is That Letter You Received From the IRS Legitimate?

Dealing with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can ignite panic in even the calmest individuals. Your money is at stake and plenty of people have had nightmare dealings with the IRS over their taxes.

When you receive a letter in the mail claiming to be from the IRS or related to an IRS matter, those panic signals can go off right away. What did I do wrong? Did I forget something in my taxes? Did my tax preparer fly through my taxes and miss some important details?

Before you panic, it’s essential to first verify that what you received in the mail is genuinely from the IRS. We have seen these and dealt with them in the past, so here are some signs you need to look out for to confirm whether or not that letter is legitimate.

A 1-800 Number is a Dead Giveaway

Scam letters will ask you to take action. They want to get you on the line and see what they can get out of you. Many of these leave a 1-800 number asking you to call and take action immediately.

If the number is anything other than 800-829-1040 (the IRS customer service line) then you can bet that what you received is a scam. Companies will work to instill fear in you and want you to take action before you have a chance to stop, think, and verify that who you are talking to is actually an IRS agent.

Along the same lines, if the mailing ever asks you to immediately pay any amount in the form of a Visa gift card it is a guaranteed scam. The IRS does not accept Visa gift cards as payment.

Strange, Untechnical Terminology

The IRS has specific processes, procedures, and forms in place. If you receive a letter that says it is extremely urgent, and you have not received a previous notice about the matter, this is a strong indication that what you are reading is not connected to the IRS.

The IRS will not send you a letter to tell you “SEIZURE OR FORFEITURE IS IMMINENT” or “FINAL DEMAND FOR PAYMENT.” IRS agents have specific laws they must follow to communicate with taxpayers. Right on their website, they note that the agency “doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information.”

You have a right to defend yourself against IRS claims and strange terminology creating urgency to pay immediately goes against this right. The IRS must give you an opportunity to question and/or appeal the amount you owe.

Look for specific identification from the IRS. Most IRS notices have a code in the upper or bottom right hand corner telling you what kind of notice it is.  You can search the IRS website for specific terms and codes to verify whether or not what is on the letter is actually legitimate.

Personal Info Does NOT Mean It’s Legitimate

You may not realize how much of your financial information is considered public information. If the IRS has filed a lien against you then people can locate it and prey on you by making you believe that just because they have that information they must be legitimate.

If the sender has your personal information in the letter, it could be an indication that the letter is legitimate but it does not automatically mean that it is.

The IRS Does Not Make Threats

The IRS will never threaten to send police, immigration, or other law enforcement officers to your home. They also do not have the ability to revoke driver’s licenses, business licenses, or immigration status.

If the letter you receive has specific threats in it, you can be confident that it is not legitimate. If the police are coming to get you, you will not be warned – this would provide people with an opportunity to flee.

Not Sure? Contact an Attorney

If you truly can’t tell and are concerned about your financial future, you should work with an attorney. A qualified tax attorney can tell what is real and what is not and help you navigate the next steps of responding (if necessary).Contact Robert V. Boeshaar, Attorney at Law, LL.M., PLLC if you need help getting out of trouble with the IRS.

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