Debt and taxes
IN APRIL, the IRS ( irs.gov) began a new private
collection program of certain overdue federal tax
debts, selecting four private collection agencies
(PCAs) to implement it. Generally, the taxpayers
whose accounts are given to these private collectors are people whom the IRS has contacted
multiple times in the past several years and still
have unpaid taxes, say IRS o;cials.
Critics of the new program warn it could
provide more opportunities for IRS imposters to
perpetrate a long-running phone scam that has
cost consumers millions. You need to stay on the
lookout for unexpected calls from anyone claiming to be collecting on behalf of the tax agency.
Here are some things to know to determine the
di;erence between the real and a ruse.
Scam signs. Imposters trying to trick you
typically run similar scams, so be aware of the
signs. Often these scam artists will:
• Demand immediate payment of taxes with
a prepaid debit card, wire transfer, i Tunes card
or gift card.
• Ask for your credit card or debit card numbers over the phone.
• Intimidate you and threaten to have you
arrested for nonpayment.
• Insist on payment without giving you the
opportunity to question or appeal the amount
they claim you owe.
• Ask you to pay a collection agency or someone else directly.
Don’t respond to these tactics! If you think
you’ve been the victim of an IRS phone scam, here
is what you can do:
• Fill out the IRS impersonation scam form
on the Treasury Inspector
General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) website
(go to tigta.gov and click
“Contact”) or call TIGTA at
• File a consumer complaint with the Federal
Trade Commission at
ftc.gov. Add the
words “IRS Telephone Scam” to the
comments in your
First, a letter.
Before you receive
phone calls from
the IRS or a PCA,
the IRS will first
send a letter to you
your account has
been assigned to
one of the four PCAs. The PCA will send you a
letter to con;rm. Both of these letters will contain
a unique ;;-digit identi;er used to conduct two-
party veri;cation between you and the PCA. The
letter will not contain your Social Security number.
Informational publication ;;;;, “What You
Can Expect When the IRS Assigns Your Account
to a Private Collection Agency,” answers questions
about the program and is accessible on the IRS
website (search the aforementioned title).
Four agencies. The IRS is assigning cases to
four private debt collection agencies: the CBE
Group, ConServe, Performant Recovery and
Pioneer Credit Recovery. Your account will be
assigned to one of these agencies. No other private
group is authorized to represent the IRS. You won’t
get a call from one of these agencies unless you’ve
heard from the IRS ;rst.
If you do not wish to work with the assigned
PCA to settle your overdue tax account, you must
submit a request in writing to that agency. If you
call the PCA and say you don’t want to work with
them to settle your debt, under current procedures
the agency must suspend all activity on your
account for ;; days to allow you su;cient time to
make a written request.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. PCA employees are required to
be courteous and respect your rights as a taxpayer.
They must uphold the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (irs.
gov/taxpayer-bill-of-rights) and follow provisions
of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and are
essentially held to the same standards as IRS
employees. They cannot threaten or intimidate
you and are not authorized to take enforcement
against you, like ;ling a tax lien or issuing a levy.
They are authorized to discuss your payment
options, including setting up payment agreements.
Payment by check should be made directly to the
IRS or the United States Treasury only. For more
information on the Fair Debt Collection Practices
Act, search the Federal Trade Commission website.
To make a complaint about a private collection
agency or to report misconduct by its employees,
contact TIGTA. To report a threat, assault or
attempted assault by a private collection agency
employee, contact the TIGTA O;ce of Inves-
tigations with responsibility for your geographic
area. For contact information, go to the TIGTA
website, click on “Investigations” and then on
If you’re having tax problems and haven’t been
able to resolve them on your own with the IRS, you
may be eligible for help from the Taxpayer Advocate
Service, an independent organization within the
IRS that protects taxpayer’s rights. For more infor-
mation, visit taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov.
Unsure if you have unpaid tax debt? Visit irs.
gov/balancedue to check your account balance. C © A R
Amanda Horowitz is a writer,
businesswoman and owner
of Fight Back! She is the
daughter of Fight Back’s
founder, David Horowitz.
Fight Back! has received
multiple Emmy Awards
and awards from more than
;;; government and citizen
groups and has helped to
draft over ;; pieces of con-sumer-related legislation in
the United States.
Horowitz can be contacted
Please include “Consumer
Connection” in the subject
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but regrets that unpublished
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