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In a move that could be confusing to seniors who are vulnerable to scams, the IRS will begin using private debt collection agencies to collect past-due taxes. The new program will begin in April 2017.
Authorized by a law Congress passed in December 2015, the IRS may now contract with private debt collectors to collect certain debts. The private collection agencies can work on accounts in which the taxpayer owes money, but the IRS is no longer actively working on the account, perhaps because the account is older or the IRS does not have resources to continue pursuing it.
Historically, scammers have posed as the IRS to target seniors and other vulnerable adults to retrieve identifying information or payment. Up till now, tax professionals have been able to reassure clients that the IRS would never harass consumers over the phone. However, under this new rule, private debt collectors may contact taxpayers by phone, which may make it more difficult to determine whether a scammer is targeting the taxpayer.
The IRS will notify taxpayers by mail if it is turning their case over to a private debt collector. In addition, the debt collector is required to send a written notice once it receives the taxpayer's information. The collection agencies are required to abide by debt collection laws, which prevent debt collectors from harassing consumers.
The IRS has contracted with four debt collection companies:
To avoid scams, remember that private collection agencies will only ask for payments to be made online at IRS.gov or by check. Checks should be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and sent directly to the IRS, not the private collection agency. The collection agency will not ask for payment on a prepaid debit, iTunes or gift card.
Read more information about the new program.