IRS: Don’t Fall for Scam Calls and Emails

ANNAPOLIS, MD (February 7, 2017) — Scams continue to use the IRS as a lure. These tax scams take many different forms. The most common scams are phone calls and emails from thieves who pretend to be from the IRS. Scammers use the IRS name, logo or a fake website to try and steal money from taxpayers. Identity theft can also happen with these scams.

Taxpayers need to be wary of phone calls or automated messages from someone who claims to be from the IRS. Often these criminals will say the taxpayer owes money. They also demand payment right away. Other times scammers will lie to a taxpayer and say they are due a refund. The thieves ask for bank account information over the phone. The IRS warns taxpayers not to fall for these scams.

Below are several tips that will help filers avoid becoming a scam victim.
IRS employees will NOT:

• Call demanding immediate payment. The IRS will not call a taxpayer if they owe tax without first sending a bill in the mail.
• Demand payment without allowing the taxpayer to question or appeal the amount owed.
• Require the taxpayer pay their taxes a certain way. For example, demand taxpayers use a prepaid debit card.
• Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
• Threaten to contact local police or similar agencies to arrest the taxpayer for non-payment of taxes.
• Threaten legal action such as a lawsuit.

If a taxpayer doesn’t owe or think they owe any tax, they should:

• Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use TIGTA’s “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page to report the incident.
• Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your report.

In most cases, an IRS phishing scam is an unsolicited, bogus email that claims to come from the IRS. Criminals often use fake refunds, phony tax bills or threats of an audit. Some emails link to sham websites that look real. The scammers’ goal is to lure victims to give up their personal and financial information. If they get what they’re after, they use it to steal a victim’s money and their identity.

For those taxpayers who get a ‘phishing’ email, the IRS offers this advice:

• Don’t reply to the message.
• Don’t give out your personal or financial information.
• Forward the email to phishing@irs.gov. Then delete it.
• Do not open any attachments or click on any links. They may have malicious code that will infect your computer.

More information on how to report phishing or phone scams is available on IRS.gov.

 

Phishing Schemes Lead IRS “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams for 2017; Remain Tax-Time Threat

ANNAPOLIS (February 2, 2017) — The Internal Revenue Service warns taxpayers to watch for fake emails or websites looking to steal personal information. These “phishing” schemes continue to be on the annual IRS list of “Dirty Dozen” tax scams for the 2017 filing season.

The IRS saw a big spike in phishing and malware incidents during the 2016 tax season. New and evolving phishing schemes already have been seen this month as scam artists work to confuse taxpayers during filing season. The IRS has seen email schemes in recent weeks targeting tax professionals, payroll professionals, human resources personnel, schools as well as average taxpayers.

In these email schemes, criminals pose as a person or organization the taxpayer trusts or recognizes. They may hack an email account and send mass emails under another person’s name. They may pose as a bank, credit card company, tax software provider or government agency. Criminals go to great lengths to create websites that appear legitimate but contain phony log-in pages. These criminals hope victims will take the bait and provide money, passwords, Social Security numbers and other information that can lead to identity theft.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said taxpayers should avoid opening surprise emails or clicking on web links claiming to be from the IRS and shouldn’t be fooled by unexpected emails about big refunds, tax bills or requesting personal information. Scam emails and websites also can infect a taxpayer’s computer with malware without the user knowing it. The malware can give the criminal access to the device, enabling them to access all sensitive files or track keyboard strokes, exposing login information.

Compiled annually, the “Dirty Dozen” lists a variety of common scams that taxpayers may encounter anytime but many of these schemes peak during filing season as people prepare their returns or find people to help with their taxes.

For those perpetrating these schemes, the scams can lead to significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to shut down scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

It is important to keep in mind the IRS generally does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS has information online that can help protect taxpayers from email scams.

For more information, visit IRS.gov.

IRS Reminder: Employers Must File Forms W-2 by Jan. 31 This Year

ANNAPOLIS (January 31, 2017)  ― The Internal Revenue Service reminds employers that today is the due date for filing Forms W-2, the Wage and Tax Statement for their employees for calendar year 2016. Also, those who hire contract workers and have to file Form 1099-MISC now must file by Jan. 31.

The new deadline applies whether an employer e-files or files a paper Form W-2. Employers who pay an employee $600 or more for the year must file a Form W-2 for each employee with the Social Security Administration. The new deadline is part of legislation signed into law at the end of 2015 to combat identity-theft related refund fraud.

The Social Security Administration encourages all employers to e-file their Forms W-2 by using its Business Services Online.  Employers who file paper Forms W-2 should file them with the Social Security Administration, Data Operations Center, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18769-0001.

E-filing can save time and effort and helps ensure accuracy. Employers must e-file if they file 250 or more Forms W-2 or W-2c. Employers who are required to e-file but fail to do so may incur a penalty. E-filing can save time and effort and helps ensure accuracy.

The IRS projects that employers will file more than 250 million Forms W-2 this year; the vast majority will be e-filed.

The new rule does not affect the filing deadline for other types of Form 1099 or Forms 1097, 1098, 3921, 3922, or W-2G, which are filed on paper by Feb. 28, 2018, or by April 2, 2018 if filed electronically.

For more information, visit IRS.gov.

Security Awareness for Taxpayers: The Tax Community Needs Your Help

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (January 10, 2017) – The Maryland Comptroller’s Office and the federal Internal Revenue Service are doing everything they can to protect Marylanders from identity theft. But officials at both agencies urge Marylanders to take steps necessary to protect their personal and financial data.

Cybercriminals continue to steal enormous amounts of personal data from outside the tax system and to use that data to file fraudulent tax returns or commit other crimes while impersonating the victims.
Comptroller Peter Franchot urges Marylanders to take these steps to protect themselves and their data:

Keep Computers Secure
• Use security software and make sure it updates automatically; essential tools include using a firewall, virus/malware protection and file encryption for sensitive data.
• Treat personal information like cash, don’t leave it lying around.
• Taxpayers should check out companies to find out who they are really dealing with.
• Give personal information only over encrypted websites – look for “https” addresses.
• Use strong passwords and protect them.
• Back up their files.

Avoid Phishing and Malware
• Avoid phishing emails, texts or calls that appear to be from the IRS, tax companies and other well-known business; instead, go directly to their websites.
• Marylanders should not open attachments in emails unless they know who sent it and what it is.
• Download and install software only from known, trusted websites.
• Use a pop-up blocker.
• Families should talk about safe computing practices.

Protect Personal Information

Citizens should not routinely carry their Social Security card or any documents with their SSN. They should not overshare personal information on social media. Information about past addresses, a new car, a new home and one’s children help identity thieves pose as someone they’re not. Maryland citizens should keep old tax returns and tax records under lock and key or encrypted, if electronic. They should shred tax documents before trashing.

The IRS urges citizens to watch out for IRS impersonators. Officials there say “the IRS will not call you with threats of jail or lawsuits. The IRS will not send you an unsolicited email suggesting you have a refund or that you need to update your account. The IRS will not request any sensitive information online. These are all scams, and they persistent and change frequently. Don’t fall for them. Forward IRS-related scam emails to phishing@irs.gov. Report IRS-impersonation telephone calls at www.tigta.gov.”

Additional steps:
• Citizens should check their credit report at least annually and check their bank and credit card statements often;
• Citizens should review their Social Security Administration records annually. They can sign up for My Social Security at www.ssa.gov.
• If someone is an identity theft victim whose tax account is affected, they should review http://www.irs.gov/identitytheft for details.

For more information, visit IRS.gov.

 

Tax Preparedness Series: What to Do Before the Tax Year Ends on Dec. 31

ANNAPOLIS (December 28, 2016) – As tax filing season approaches, the Internal Revenue Service is reminding taxpayers there are things they should do now to get ready for filing season.

For most taxpayers, Dec. 31 is the last day to take actions that will impact their 2016 tax returns. For example, charitable contributions are deductible in the year made. Donations charged to a credit card before the end of 2016 count for the 2016 tax year, even if the bill isn’t paid until 2017. Checks to a charity count for 2016 as long as they are mailed by the last day of the year.

Taxpayers who are over age 70½ are generally required to receive payments from their individual retirement accounts and workplace retirement plans by the end of 2016, though a special rule allows those who reached 70½ in 2016 to wait until April 1, 2017 to receive them. Most workplace retirement account contributions should be made by the end of the year, but taxpayers can make 2016 IRA contributions until April 18, 2017. For 2016, the limit for a 401(k) is $18,000. For traditional and Roth IRAs, the limit is $6,500 if age 50 or older and up to $15,500 for a Simple IRA for age 50 or older.

Taxpayers who have moved should tell the U.S. Postal Service, their employers and the IRS. To notify the IRS, mail IRS Form 8822, Change of Address, to the address listed on the form’s instructions. For taxpayers who purchase health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, they should also notify the Marketplace when they move out of the area covered by their current Marketplace plan.

For name changes due to marriage or divorce, notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) so the new name will match IRS and SSA records. Also notify the SSA if a dependent’s name changed. A mismatch between the name shown on your tax return and the SSA records can cause problems in the processing of your return and may even delay your refund.

Effective Jan. 1, 2017, any Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) not used at least once on a tax return in the past three years will no longer be valid for use on a return. In addition, an ITIN with middle digits 78 or 79 will also expire on Jan. 1. Those with expiring ITINs who need to file a return in 2017 must renew their ITIN. Affected ITIN holders can avoid delays by starting the renewal process now.

Taxpayers should allow seven weeks from Jan. 1, 2017, or the mailing date of the Form W-7, whichever is later, for the IRS to notify them of their ITIN application status – nine to 11 weeks if taxpayers wait to submit Form W-7 during the peak filing season, or send it from overseas. Those who fail to renew before filing a return could face a delayed refund and may be ineligible for some important tax credits. For more information, including answers to frequently-asked questions, visit the ITIN information page on IRS.gov.

Keeping copies of tax returns is important as the IRS makes changes to protect taxpayers and authenticate their identity. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income amount from a prior tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign their tax return at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

For more information, visit IRS.gov.

Tax Preparedness Series: Tax Records – What to Keep

ANNAPOLIS (December 14, 2016) – As tax filing season approaches, the Internal Revenue Service has information for taxpayers who wonder how long to keep tax returns and other documents.

Generally, the IRS recommends keeping copies of tax returns and supporting documents at least three years. Some documents should be kept up to seven years in case a taxpayer needs to file an amended return or if questions arise. Keep records relating to real estate up to seven years after disposing of the property.

Health care information statements should be kept with other tax records. Taxpayers do not need to send these forms to IRS as proof of health coverage. The records taxpayers should keep include records of any employer-provided coverage, premiums paid, advance payments of the premium tax credit received and type of coverage. Taxpayers should keep these – as they do other tax records – generally for three years after they file their tax returns.

Whether stored on paper or kept electronically, the IRS urges taxpayers to keep tax records safe and secure, especially any documents bearing Social Security numbers. The IRS also suggests scanning paper tax and financial records into a format that can be encrypted and stored securely on a flash drive, CD or DVD with photos or videos of valuables.

Now is a good time to set up a system to keep tax records safe and easy to find when filing next year, applying for a home loan or financial aid. Tax records must support the income, deductions and credits claimed on returns. Taxpayers need to keep these records if the IRS asks questions about a tax return or to file an amended return.

It is even more important for taxpayers to have a copy of last year’s tax return as the IRS makes changes to authenticate and protect taxpayer identity. Beginning in 2017, some taxpayers who e-file will need to enter either the prior-year Adjusted Gross Income or the prior-year self-select PIN and date of birth. If filing jointly, both taxpayers’ identities must be authenticated with this information. The AGI is clearly labeled on the tax return. Learn more at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Taxpayers who need tax information can request a free transcript for the past three tax years. The ‘Get Transcript’ tool on IRS.gov is the fastest way to get a transcript.

If taxpayers are still keeping old tax returns and receipts stuffed in a shoebox in the back of the closet, they might want to rethink that approach. Keep tax, financial and health records safe and secure whether stored on paper or kept electronically. When records are no longer needed for tax purposes, ensure the data is properly destroyed to prevent the information from being used by identity thieves.

If disposing of an old computer, tablet, mobile phone or back-up hard drive, keep in mind it includes files and personal data. Removing this information may require special disk utility software. More information is available on IRS.gov at How long should I keep records?.

 

IRS Advice to Those with Expiring ITINs: Apply Now to Avoid Refund Delays; Agency Offers Tips To Avoid Common Errors

ANNAPOLIS (December 9, 2016) – The Internal Revenue Service urges any taxpayer with an expiring Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and a need to file a return in the upcoming filing season to file a renewal application in the next few weeks to avoid refund and processing delays. In addition, the IRS encouraged people to check their renewal application, Form W-7, carefully before filing and offered tips for avoiding common errors being seen.

ITINs are used by people who have tax-filing or payment obligations under U.S. law but are not eligible for a Social Security number. Under a recent law change by Congress, any ITIN not used on a tax return at least once in the past three years will expire on Jan. 1, 2017. In addition, any ITIN with middle digits of either 78 or 79 (9NN-78-NNNN or 9NN-79-NNNN) also will expire on that date.

This means that anyone with an expiring ITIN should act now to make sure they have a renewed ITIN in time to file a return during the upcoming tax season. Failure to do so will result in refund delays and possible loss of eligibility for some tax benefits.

The IRS said that an ITIN renewal application filed now before the end of the year will be processed before one submitted in January or February at the height of tax season.
Currently, a complete and accurate renewal application can be processed in as little as seven weeks. But this timeframe is expected to lengthen to 11 weeks during tax season.

The IRS reports several common errors being seen in recent weeks that are currently slowing down and holding up some ITIN renewal applications. The mistakes generally center on missing information, and/or insufficient supporting documentation. The tax agency stressed that ITIN renewal applicants should be sure to use the latest version of Form W-7, revised September 2016. This is the version of the form, along with its instructions, currently posted on IRS.gov.

To ensure prompt processing of the form, ITIN renewal applicants should also complete the following steps:

• At the top of the form, be sure to check the box that says, “Renew an existing ITIN.”

• Under, “Reason you’re submitting Form W-7,” every applicant must check one of the eight boxes. If more than one applies, be sure to check the option that best describes the tax purpose for filing the application. Do not write, “ITIN renewal,” in this section of the form, as it is not a valid reason.

• On Line 3, an applicant living outside the United States should enter their foreign address, if different from the mailing address on Line 2. If now living in the U.S., be sure to enter the foreign country of last residence. See the Form W-7 instructions for details.

• Include original supporting and required identification documentation, or certified copies from the issuing agency to prove foreign status and identity.

ITIN renewal applicants also are reminded that only a passport with a U.S. entry date is now acceptable as a stand-alone identification document for dependents. This is a change from past policy. This means that dependent ITIN applicants who use a passport without a date of entry must provide additional documentation, along with the passport, to prove U.S. residency. Acceptable documents include:

• If under age 6, a U.S. medical record.

• If under age 18, a U.S. school record.

• If at least age 18, a U.S. school record for anyone who is a student. Otherwise, anyone 18 and over can provide a rental or bank statement or a utility bill listing the applicant’s name and U.S. address.

Dependents from Canada, Mexico, or dependents of U.S. military personnel stationed overseas are exempt from these additional requirements.

 

IRS Warns Taxpayers of Numerous Tax Scams Nationwide; Provides Summary of Most Recent Schemes

IRS Warns Taxpayers of Numerous Tax Scams Nationwide; Provides Summary of Most Recent Schemes

ANNAPOLIS (December 8, 2016) — As tax season approaches, the Internal Revenue Service, many states, including Maryland, and the tax industry remind taxpayers to be on the lookout for emerging tax scams related to identity theft and refund fraud.

Every tax season, there is an increase in schemes that target innocent taxpayers by email, by phone and online. The IRS and Security Summit partners remind taxpayers and tax professionals to be on the lookout for these deceptive schemes. This reminder is presented to taxpayers during the “National Tax Security Awareness Week.” Some of the most prevalent IRS impersonation scams include:

• Requesting fake tax payments: The IRS has seen automated calls where scammers leave urgent callback requests telling taxpayers to call back to settle their “tax bill.” These fake calls generally claim to be the last warning before legal action is taken. Taxpayers may also receive live calls from IRS impersonators. They may demand payments on prepaid debit cards, iTunes and other gift cards or wire transfer. The IRS reminds taxpayers that any request to settle a tax bill using any of these payment methods is a clear indication of a scam. (IR-2016-99)

• Targeting students and parents and demanding payment for a fake “Federal Student Tax”: Telephone scammers target students and parents demanding payments for fictitious taxes, such as the “Federal Student Tax.” If the person does not comply, the scammer becomes aggressive and threatens to report the student to the police to be arrested. (IR-2016-107)

• Sending a fraudulent IRS bill for tax year 2015 related to the Affordable Care Act: The IRS has received numerous reports of scammers sending a fraudulent version of CP2000 notices for tax year 2015. Generally, the scam involves an email or letter that includes the fake CP2000. The fraudulent notice includes a payment request that taxpayers mail a check made out to “I.R.S.” to the “Austin Processing Center” at a Post Office Box address. (IR-2016-123)

• Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals: Payroll and human resources professionals should be aware of phishing email schemes that pretend to be from company executives and request personal information on employees. The email contains the actual name of the company chief executive officer. In this scam, the “CEO” sends an email to a company payroll office employee and requests a list of employees and financial and personal information including Social Security numbers (SSN). (IR-2016-34)

• Imitating software providers to trick tax professionals: Tax professionals may receive emails pretending to be from tax software companies. The email scheme requests the recipient download and install an important software update via a link included in the e-mail. Upon completion, tax professionals believe they have downloaded a software update when in fact they have loaded a program designed to track the tax professional’s key strokes, which is a common tactic used by cyber thieves to steal login information, passwords and other sensitive data. (IR-2016-103)

• “Verifying” tax return information over the phone: Scam artists call saying they have your tax return, and they just need to verify a few details to process your return. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information such as a SSN or personal financial information, including bank numbers or credit cards. (IR-2016-40)

• Pretending to be from the tax preparation industry: The emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. The phishing schemes can ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics. E-mails or text messages can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information. (IR-2016-28)

If you receive an unexpected call, unsolicited email, letter or text message from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here are some of the telltale signs to help protect yourself.
If you get a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:

• Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.

• Search the web for telephone numbers scammers leave in your voicemail asking you to call back. Some of the phone numbers may be published online and linked to criminal activity.

• Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or call 800-366-4484.

• Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

• If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.
If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by sending it to phishing@irs.gov.

Registration Now Open for 2017 Advance Monthly Payments of the Health Coverage Tax Credit

ANNAPOLIS (November 15, 2016) – The Internal Revenue Service has opened the new registration and enrollment process for qualified taxpayers to receive the benefit of the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC) on an advance monthly basis during 2017.

Eligible taxpayers can have 72.5 percent of their qualified health insurance premiums paid in advance directly to their health plan administrator each month. Each payment made on their behalf to the health plan administrator lowers their out-of-pocket premium costs.

Taxpayers may be eligible to elect the HCTC only if they are one of the following:

• An eligible trade adjustment assistance (TAA) recipient, alternative TAA recipient or reemployment TAA recipient,
• An eligible Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) payee, or
• The family member of an eligible TAA, ATAA, or RTAA recipient or PBGC payee who is deceased or who finalized a divorce with them.

Taxpayers can now begin the process of registering with the IRS and providing required information to participate in the 2017 Advance Monthly Payment program for the HCTC. This includes completing and mailing Form 13441-A, HCTC Monthly Registration and Update, with all required supporting documents to the IRS.

Once the registration is complete and they are enrolled in the Advanced Monthly Payment HCTC program, the taxpayer must pay 27.5 percent of their health insurance premiums in advance to the HCTC program. Payments are due by the 10th day of each month and must be made through the US Bank Lockbox system. The HCTC program then adds the 72.5 percent advance portion of the HCTC and sends the full payment to the health plan or third party administrator each month.

For more information, including a helpful set of questions and answers, visit IRS.gov/HCTC.

Renewing Your ITIN? Things You’ll Need

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (November 4, 2016) Some Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) expire at the end of 2016. The Internal Revenue Service issues an ITIN to those who have a filing or reporting requirement but don’t have and are not eligible to get a Social Security number. If you need to renew your ITIN, you should submit a complete application this fall to avoid delays.

The following list includes the documents you’ll need to renew your ITIN:

1. Form W-7. You must submit a completed Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (Rev 9-2016). You don’t need a completed tax return for the renewal application. You must include the identification documents with the form.
2. Proof of foreign status and identity. Several documents satisfy this requirement. These are:

• Passport. (Note: You can use a passport as a stand-alone document for dependents with a U.S. date of entry. Otherwise, an additional ID from the list below is required)
• National ID card (must show photo, name, current address, date of birth and expiration)
• U.S. driver’s license
• Birth certificate (required for dependents under 18)
• Foreign driver’s license
• U.S. state ID card
• Foreign voter’s registration card
• U.S. military ID card
• Foreign military ID card
• Visa
• U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) photo identification
• Medical records (only dependents under 6)
• School records (dependents under 14, or under 18 if a student)

Only original documents or copies certified by the issuing agency are accepted. If you would rather not mail original documents, you may use the IRS Certified Acceptance Agent (CAA) Program or make an appointment at a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center.

3. Dependent requirements. If you need to renew your ITIN, you have the option to renew ITINs for your entire family at the same time. For dependents from countries other than Canada or Mexico or dependents of U.S. military members overseas, a passport with a U.S. entry date may serve as stand-alone identification. Along with the passport, dependent applications require:

• U.S. medical records for dependents under age 6, or
• U.S. school records for dependents under age 18
• U.S. school records for dependents age 18 and over or,
o Rental statement with the applicant’s name and U.S. address or
o Utility bill with the applicant’s name and U.S. address or
o Bank statement with applicant’s name and U.S. address

To claim certain credits and to receive a timely refund, renew your ITIN before you file your taxes.

Additional IRS Resources:
• Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
• IR-2016-100, IRS Works to Help Taxpayers Affected by ITIN Changes; Renewals Begin in October
• IR-2016-129, IRS Now Accepting ITIN Renewal Applications; Taxpayers Encouraged to Act Soon to Avoid Processing Delays in 2017
• ITIN Expiration Frequently Asked Questions

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