For years, the IRS has made clear that their first contact with you will not be a text or email.
But it turns out that it might be a knock on your door.
Residents of Floyd County, Georgia, were shocked recently when they saw a man visiting homes claiming to be from the IRS. Several residents called the police—one even sent them a video of the man who claimed to be an IRS worker.
It turns out that he really did work for the IRS.
Police officers stopped by his Smyrna, Georgia address—and found a legitimate IRS office. There are several offices in that general area, including Taxpayer Assistance Centers. You can find yours here.
The IRS employee explained that he was visiting on legitimate IRS business and said that other IRS workers could make an appearance in the future. Local police in the area have asked the IRS for a heads-up before making future house calls, but it’s not clear whether they agreed.
When I asked the IRS about the visit, they advised, “This is not a new situation. For many years, in limited circumstances, employees may visit a taxpayer’s home or business. These visits are carefully regulated, and compliance employees are trained in respecting taxpayer rights.”
The IRS has previously confirmed online that circumstances could lead to an in-person call or visit. That includes instances when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill, an unfiled tax return, or has not made an employment tax deposit. An IRS employee may also want to see your home office or tour your business as part of an audit or ongoing criminal investigation.
But with worries about IRS impersonators and scams still a genuine concern, how can you protect yourself?
- Ask for ID. Revenue officers carry two forms of official identification: IRS-issued credentials and an HSPD-12 card. The HSPD-12 card is a government-wide standard form of identification for federal employees. Both forms of identification have serial numbers and photos of the employee—and you can ask to see both.
- Open your mail. Typically, the IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail. But even when the IRS calls or comes to a home or business, you’ll generally receive several notices from the IRS in the mail. Most unannounced home or business visits are collection matters when the agency believes there is a level of urgency (for example, the collection of unpaid employment taxes). You should be aware of those outstanding liabilities—even if you aren’t expecting a knock at the door.
And remember that, even with a home visit, the IRS will not:
- Demand that you use a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit or gift card;
- Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed;
- Send text messages or contact you through social media; or
- 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 license, or immigration status—those are common tactics scammers use to scare victims.
If you think you have been a victim of an impersonator, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration on the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting or call 800-366-4484. You can report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission using the FTC Complaint Assistant—just add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
But if you think it’s a legitimate visit, don’t panic. You have rights as a taxpayer, including the right to be heard. That includes raising objections and providing additional documentation to be considered by the IRS.
If you have an existing tax liability—or you simply haven’t filed—don’t ignore those knocks and calls. Help is available through irs.gov, taxpayer assistance centers, or a tax professional.