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IRS Warns of Continued Scams, Varied Tactics as the Tax Deadline Nears

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IRS Warns of Continued Scams, Varied Tactics as the Tax Deadline Nears

IR-2016-62, April 13, 2016

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued a warning that scammers may try using the April 18 tax deadline to prey on hard-working taxpayers by impersonating the IRS and others with fake phone calls and emails. Even after the tax deadline passes, taxpayers should know the telltale signs of a scam and tips to protect themselves from a variety of phone scams and phishing emails.

"We’ve seen continuing activity in these scams throughout the filing season," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "As the tax deadline nears, these criminals may try and trick honest taxpayers over the phone or via email, and people should remain vigilant. After the tax deadline, watch out for these scammers promising a refund or threatening you with an unexpected tax bill."

These scam artists frequently masquerade as being from the IRS, a tax company and sometimes even a state revenue department. By email, they try enticing people to click on links in official-looking messages containing questions related to their "tax refund." Report these emails to phishing@irs.gov. By phone, many scammers use threats to intimidate and bully people into paying a "tax bill." They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the driver’s license of their victim if they don’t get the money.

Variations of these scams can be seen nationwide, and it’s more important than ever to be cautious with providing personal or financial information. As part of the effort to protect taxpayers, the IRS has teamed up with state revenue departments and the tax industry to make sure taxpayers understand the dangers to their personal and financial data as part of the “Taxes. Security. Together” campaign.   

Some examples of the varied tactics seen this year are:

  • Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals (see news release IR-2016-34)

  • “Verifying” tax return information over the phone (IR-2016-40)

  • Pretending to be from the tax preparation industry (IR-2016-28

    There are some important reminders for taxpayers nationwide about these schemes.

    Watch Out for Threatening Phone Calls

    Beware of scammers making 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.

    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.

    The IRS Will Never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.

  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

  • 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.

    If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money and you don’t owe taxes, here’s what you should do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.

  • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or 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 think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040.

    Avoid Email Phishing Attempts

    There has been a surge in email scams this year that appear to be from a tax agency or a tax software company. 

    Never reply to emails, texts or pop-up messages asking for your personal, tax or financial information. One common trick by criminals is to impersonate a business such as your financial institution, tax software provider or the IRS, asking you to update your account and providing a link. For small business, these schemes may try impersonating a company leader and request payroll and human resource information for employees in your company. Never click on links even if they seem to be from organizations you trust. Go directly to the organization’s website.

    And if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you see an email that says "You won a free cruise" or "The IRS has a refund waiting for you," odds are high that it is a phishing attempt looking to get your personal information.

    If you get a phishing email, remember this important advice:

  • Don’t reply to the message.

  • Don’t give out your personal or financial information.

  • Forward the email to phishing@irs.gov. Then delete it.

  • Don’t open any attachments or click on any links. They may have malicious code that will infect your computer.

    More information on how to report phishing or phone scams is available on IRS.gov.

    Related Items:

  • www.irs.gov/identitytheft

  • Fact sheet FS-2016-1, IRS, States and Tax Industry Combat Identity Theft and Refund Fraud on Many Fronts

  • FS-2016-2, IRS, States and Tax Industry Urge Taxpayers to Join the Effort to Combat Identity Theft

  • FS-2016-3, IRS Identity Theft Victim Assistance: How It Works

  • FS-2016-4, How New Identity Security Changes May Affect Taxpayers for 2016 

     

Special Exclusion for Cancelled Home Mortgage Debt

Posted by Admin Posted on Mar 15 2014

Special Exclusion for Cancelled Home Mortgage Debt

If a lender cancels or forgives money you owe, you usually have to pay tax on that amount. But when it comes to your home, an important exception to this rule may apply in 2013. Here are several key facts from the IRS about the special exclusion for cancelled home mortgage debt:

• If the cancelled debt was a mortgage loan on your main home, you may be able to exclude the cancelled amount from your income. To qualify you must have used the loan to buy, build or substantially improve your main home. The loan must also be secured by your main home.

• If your lender cancelled part of your mortgage through a loan modification, or ‘workout,’ you may be able to exclude that amount from your income. You may also be able to exclude debt discharged as part of the Home Affordable Modification Program. Visit IRS.gov for more details about HAMP. The exclusion may also apply to the amount of debt cancelled in a foreclosure.

• The exclusion may apply to amounts cancelled on a refinanced mortgage. This applies only if you used proceeds from the refinancing to buy, build or greatly improve your main home. Proceeds used for other purposes don’t qualify. For example, a loan that you used to pay your credit card debt doesn’t qualify.

• Other types of cancelled debt do not qualify for this special exclusion. This includes debt cancelled on second homes, rental and business property, credit card debt or car loans.

• If your lender reduced or cancelled at least $600 of your mortgage debt, you should receive Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, in January of the following year. This form shows the amount of cancelled debt and other information. Notify your lender if any information on the form is wrong.

• Report the excluded debt on Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness. File the completed form with your federal tax return.

• Use IRS e-file to file your tax return. E-file is the easiest way to file because the software will do the hard work for you. You can use IRS Free File to prepare and e-file your tax return with either free, brand-name software or online fillable forms – all for free. Otherwise, you may file electronically with commercial software, or through a paid preparer.

• Whether you use IRS e-File or mail a paper return, you can use the Interactive Tax Assistant on IRS.gov to find out if you must pay tax on cancelled mortgage debt.  

For more on this topic, see Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions and Abandonments. You can get IRS forms and publications online at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

IR-2012-86, Nov. 4, 2012

WASHINGTON — As part of the administration’s continued support for states and local partners impacted by Hurricane Sandy, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service today announced that they will waive low-income housing tax credit rules that prohibit owners of low-income housing from providing housing to victims of Hurricane Sandy who do not qualify as low-income. The action will expand the availability of housing for disaster victims and their families.

Because of the widespread devastation to housing caused by Hurricane Sandy, the Treasury Department and the IRS will temporarily suspend income limitation requirements and non-transient requirements for qualified low-income housing projects that provide housing to victims of Hurricane Sandy.

The President has declared that major disasters exist in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, making federal funding available to affected individuals in designated counties through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. FEMA has also approved Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) in New York and New Jersey for eligible disaster survivors who have a continuing need for shelter because they are unable to return to their homes for an extended period of time. Individuals and business owners who sustained losses can apply for assistance from FEMA by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) via mobile device at m.fema.gov, or online at www.disasterassistance.gov.