October 28, 2021

How to Spot a Fake IRS Letter

The IRS is still sending out letters related to 2020 tax returns and you might be wondering if the letter you’ve received is legitimate and not a scam. The short answer is to verify directly with the IRS if the notice is requesting personal information or a payment for back taxes, but there’s also other signs that the letter you received isn’t really from the IRS. Here’s how you can spot a fake IRS letter.

What a real IRS will look like

An IRS envelope will include the IRS logo and the letter will have your tax ID number, and either a notice number (CP) or letter number (LTR) on either the top or bottom right-hand corner of the page. The letter will also include your rights as a taxpayer (something a scammer is unlikely to include). The letter will be sent to you for a few reasons:

  • You have a balance due.
  • You are due a larger or smaller refund.
  • The IRS has a question about your tax return.
  • The IRS needs to verify your identity.
  • The IRS needs additional information from you.
  • The IRS has changed your tax return.
  • The IRS is notifying you of delays in processing your return.

A real IRS letter will never demand immediate payment or otherwise pressure you into giving out your personal information. If you are asked to pay back taxes, you will always be given steps to appeal your payment first. You’ll never be asked to make payments directly to the “IRS”—instead, payments will always be made to “United State Treasury”, which you can do by visiting www.irs.gov (and if the letter mentions gift cards? That’s a BIG RED FLAG, that’s a scam!).

When in doubt, verify with the IRS directly

Since IRS logos and letters can be faked easily, if you have any doubts that the letter is real, you can verify your account status by reviewing your tax account on the IRS website. Once you have reviewed your account and have determined that there is no balance due, you can report the fake IRS notice to the Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration and with the IRS directly at phishing@irs.gov.

If you need help with your tax problems or have any questions, please reach out to our office at (207) 888-8800.