Consumer business by Denisha Maxey
THE INTERNAL revenue service is changing the way it handles taxpayers who have outstanding tax debts. Instead of only receiving written notices in the mail, now you could receive a call from a third-party collection agency in an attempt to collect on your outstanding tax debt.
The IRS has revised its collections practices and, beginning last month, it now has four collection agencies who might contact you regarding your debt. The contracted agencies are CBE Group, Conserve, Performant and Pioneer. All four are accredited by Better Business Bureau and all are rated A-plus.
As with any new process, there will be scammers attempting to take advantage of the change by defrauding unsuspecting victims of their money! But the bureau’s investigative services department has some helpful tips to helptax payers understand how the program will work and avoid being scammed.
Before you receive any phone calls regarding your outstanding tax debt, you should have received numerous written contacts about the debt. You will receive letters and phones calls directly from the IRS before the matter is turned over to one of the third-party collection agencies.
The debt collector will also send you written notification, once your debt has been placed with the agency. Be leery if you receive a phone call first but have never received notifications by the US mail. According to the IRS, taxpayers who owe money will ALWAYS receive notifications by mail first.
If you know that you have outstanding taxes, you should contact the IRS and make sure your correct address is on file. Update your address if you need to, as it will lessen the chances of you falling victim to a scammer who tricks you out of your money. Any one of the four agencies that could contact you regarding an IRS debt will identify itself as a private debt-collection company acting on behalf of the IRS.
The agencies’ employees must follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices act and be courteous and respectful. If you receive a call from someone who is belligerent or threatens to have you arrested because of money you owe the IRS, hang up immediately. It might well be a scammer on the other end!
The four collection agencies will not request you to provide credit-card information to make payments over the phone and your payments will be made directly to the IRS and not to the collection agencies.
You can view your balance and any payment history at irs.gov/payments. If you receive a call in regard to your tax debt and the caller tells you to make a payment over the phone or wire money to their agency, hang up the phone!
Additionally, all is not lost once your tax debt has been sent to a collection agency. Taxpayers can request to have their debt transferred from a collection agency back to the IRS. To see if you have an outstanding tax debt, go online to irs.gov/balancedue.
Denisha Maxey is director of dispute resolution at Houston Better Business Bureau.