News Affecting Seniors
By Sharon Lee
Tax filing season brings new opportunities for scam artists and other criminals to prey upon victims. Recently, the IRS released its list of popular tax scams for 2016: https://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Wraps-Up-the-Dirty-Dozen-List-of-Tax-Scams-for-2016.
EL&A clients have frequently complained about unsolicited phone calls from aggressive, unknown individuals impersonating IRS agents. These fake IRS agents have threatened to send police officers to arrest the victim in his or her home unless the victim immediately transfers money to the caller. Usually, the caller demands that the victim transfer the money by a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. The callers often employ extreme urgency into the calls and high-pressure tactics. Once the transfer is completed, the caller disappears. Because the perpetrator cannot be identified or located, victims and law enforcement cannot pursue criminal or civil legal action. In the end, the victim is unable to retrieve his or her money.
Please note that the IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers via email or telephone, require a specific payment method, request credit card information over the phone, or threaten to send law enforcement. The IRS uses mail for official communications.
Scam artists often claim that a victim must file a tax return or is delinquent in filing for current or past years, even though the victim does not have a filing requirement. You are required to file a federal tax return if you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien and your gross income for the year meets the minimum requirements under the following table: https://www.irs.gov/publications/p554/ch01.html#f15102r01. You are required to file a California tax return if you are a California resident and your gross income for the year meets the minimum requirements under the following table: https://www.ftb.ca.gov/forms/2015_California_Tax_Rates_and_Exemptions.shtml#ifr.
Anyone who has received a phone call or other contact from a scam artist claiming to be from the IRS is strongly encouraged to contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration: https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml.