|How to recognize a legitimate IRS bill collector
|By Leslie Hunt
As when a train comes barelling down the tracks, you'll
know to expect that call from the private collection agency long
before the phone rings.
If chosen for the Internal Revenue Service private collection
program, you'll first receive letters from the IRS and the agency
assigned to your account.
Firms contract with the IRS
Only three private collection agencies are currently authorized
to collect taxes owed to the IRS.
If all goes well, the IRS expects to contract with
up to 10 additional private collection agencies.
Make sure when you're contacted that the agency is
one of the contracted agencies.
So far, the three companies are:
What to expect
The IRS will send a letter, along with the IRS publication "What
You Can Expect When the IRS Assigns Your Account to a Private
Collection Agency." The documents should answer FAQs about
the program -- including your right to request that the IRS handle
the account, not the debt collector.
Following the IRS letter, the assigned private collection agency
will send a letter to the taxpayer explaining that the agency
will contact him or her about the tax debt owed.
Here's a breakdown of the collection process and restrictions for
the private collection agencies:
Private collection agencies must abide by the rules set in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, including these:
Debt collectors should not harass taxpayers.
Debt collectors may not contact third parties such as employers about the taxpayer's financial situation or continue to contact a third party once they know how to reach a taxpayer directly.
Debt collectors should not contact taxpayers before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless otherwise permitted by the taxpayer.
Debt collectors may not threaten enforcement action they cannot take, such as filing a federal tax lien against you.
Making paymentsThe PCA will discuss payment options with the taxpayer, including
a lump sum or installment plan agreement. Installment plans must
meet certain restrictions, including that the taxpayer file all
required tax returns.
Tax payments should only go to the United States Treasury. The
private collection agency should provide the taxpayer with an
appropriate mailing address for the payment.
Warning signs of a scam
You receive a call from a private collection agency, but did
not receive any letters first.
The private collection agency mentioned by the caller is not
one of the three firms currently authorized to collect tax debts
-- The CBE Group, the Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson LLP
or Pioneer Credit Recovery.
The caller threatens legal action if you don't make good on
your debts. Private collection agencies in the program cannot
take enforcement action against you.
The caller requests that you make payments to an individual
or the private collection agency directly.
If you don't receive the proper notification from the IRS, regard random phone calls about federal tax debts with suspicion. Here's what to watch for:
When in doubt about a caller or letter, contact the IRS directly at (800) 829-1040. For more information about the program, go to the IRS's Web site.
Source: The Internal Revenue Service