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Tax collectors may not be from the IRS

As tax filing season begins, some taxpayers may be contacted by debt collectors claiming they owe unpaid or back taxes, and that they need to work out a deal with the Internal Revenue Service.

You should always be alert to the potential for fraud in these cases as the IRS has been plagued for years with ever more sophisticated scams involving parties who attempt to impersonate an IRS tax agent and demand payment.

This year, while the scams may still be prevalent, the contact by phone may not be a scam. Beginning this year, for certain tax accounts, the IRS will be required to turn the collections over to a private debt collections agency.

The IRS suggests that you will know the difference because you will be expecting the demand from the IRS because you know you owe some tax. If you are surprised, you should still be able to distinguish the genuine tax collector from the scam, as the genuine collections agency should offer up to a five-year installment payment plan. They will never demand payment via a debit card or threaten you with arrest or jail.

If you have serious problems paying your taxes, discussing your issue with a tax attorney is the best strategy, as they can help verify what your tax obligation is and help negotiate with the IRS an installment payment plan or an offer in compromise.

Allowing a delinquent tax bill to be turned over to collections likely means there will be additional penalties and interest that have accrued. As with most tax issues, the quicker you deal them, the less expensive the solution.

Source: Cleveland.com, "IRS expected to turn more cases of back taxes over to private debt collectors," Teresa Dixon Murray, The Plain Dealer, January 19, 2016

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