(WJBK) - We've talked about it before, but it keeps happening and people keep falling for it -- the phone call that says, "This is the IRS."
Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers, headlining the annual "Dirty Dozen" list of tax scams for the 2016 filing season, the Internal Revenue Service announced today.
The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams as scam artists threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation and other things. The IRS reminds taxpayers to guard against all sorts of con games that arise during any filing season.
"Taxpayers across the nation face a deluge of these aggressive phone scams. Don't be fooled by callers pretending to be from the IRS in an attempt to steal your money," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "We continue to say if you are surprised to be hearing from us, then you're not hearing from us."
"There are many variations. The caller may threaten you with arrest or court action to trick you into making a payment," Koskinen added. "Some schemes may say you're entitled to a huge refund. These all add up to trouble. Some simple tips can help protect you."
The Dirty Dozen is compiled annually by the IRS and lists a variety of common scams taxpayers may encounter any time during the year. Many of these con games peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns or hire someone to do so.
This January, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) announced they have received reports of roughly 896,000 contacts since October 2013 and have become aware of over 5,000 victims who have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of the scam.
"The IRS continues working to warn taxpayers about phone scams and other schemes," Koskinen said. "We especially want to thank the law-enforcement community, tax professionals, consumer advocates, the states, other government agencies and particularly the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration for helping us in this battle against these persistent phone scams."
Scammers make unsolicited calls claiming to be IRS officials. They demand that the victim pay a bogus tax bill. They con the victim into sending cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may also leave "urgent" callback requests through phone "robo-calls," or via a phishing email.
Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully a victim into paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the license of their victim if they don't get the money.
Scammers often alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim's name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official.
Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam.
The IRS will never:
Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here's what you should do:
If you don't owe taxes, or have no reason to think that you do:
Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their "IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting" web page. You can also 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 know you owe, or think you may owe tax:
Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you.
Stay alert to scams that use the IRS as a lure. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not just at tax time. For more, visit "Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts" on IRS.gov.
Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.
What Michigan Residents Should Know About Claiming the Health Coverage Tax Credit
The Health Coverage Tax Credit is a tax credit that pays 72.5 percent of qualified health insurance premiums for eligible individuals and families. You are required to attach certain documents with your income tax return to verify you were eligible to claim the credit, that your 2015 health insurance plan was qualified, and that the premiums claimed for your 2015 coverage were paid for the IRS to process your claim for the HCTC. If you do not attach the required documentation, processing delays may occur.
Here's what you should know about the HCTC:
1. Who Can Claim the HCTC. You may only claim the credit if you are:
An eligible trade adjustment assistance (TAA) recipient, alternative (ATAA) recipient or reemployment (RTAA) recipient.
An eligible Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) pension payee.
The family member of a TAA, ATAA, or RTAA recipient or PBGC pension payee who is deceased, finalized a divorce with you, or started receiving Medicare. NOTE: A family member is only eligible for two years after the date that created the eligibility.
If someone else can claim you as a dependent on their federal income tax return, you are not eligible for the HCTC.
2. What Health Insurance Plans Qualify for the HCTC. Not all plans qualify. Here are some things to remember:
All plans that previously qualified for the HCTC qualify for the HCTC through 2019.
This includes individual - private and non-group - health insurance that you purchase for yourself or your family from an insurance company, agent or broker.
Review the Instructions for Form 8885 for information about qualified health insurance plans that are eligible.
For 2015, qualified coverage includes qualified health plans offered through a federal or state-based Health Insurance Marketplace.
How to Claim the HCTC. If you've met the requirements, here's how to claim the credit on your 2015 tax return:
File Form 8885, Health Coverage Tax Credit, with your 2015 income tax return and elect HCTC when you file.
Attach an official letter reflecting your eligibility for the months claimed in 2015 following the special instructions posted on IRS.gov.
Attach documentation about your HCTC eligibility, showing that your 2015 health plan was qualified and that the premiums were paid.
Follow special instructions, if you or anyone claimed on your federal income tax return enrolled in 2015 Marketplace coverage and received the benefit of advance payments of the premium tax credit in 2015. You must reconcile the advance payments on Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit.
See the Questions and Answers and Instructions for Form 8885 for more information.
Do you have to file?
If you are unsure if you need to file a return, take a 12-minute interactive exercise here at www.irs.gov.