IRS issues warning about emerging tax season scams

The IRS warned taxpayers not to respond to suspicious emails or text messages this tax season, noting its correspondence is mainly through regular mail

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is warning taxpayers and tax professionals to be on the lookout for emerging scams and protect sensitive information as the filing season approaches.

The IRS released the warning to taxpayers as it observed National Tax Security Awareness Week in concert with its Security Summit partners. The Security Summit includes 42 state tax agencies as well as other entities connected to the tax community – including tax preparation firms, software developers, payroll and tax financial processors, tax professional organizations and financial institutions. Tax filing season is expected to begin in mid-January 2024.

"Identity thieves are relentless and use a variety of techniques," said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel, who added that he would "urge people to be careful with their personal information and be wary of email and text scams."

"With people anxious to receive the latest information about a refund or other issues during tax season, scammers will regularly pose as the IRS, a state tax agency or others in the tax industry. People should be incredibly wary about unexpected messages that can be an elaborate trap by scam artists, especially during filing season," Werfel added.

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IRS office COVID-19 fraud

The IRS, state tax agencies and other entities in the tax community are warning taxpayers about scams ahead of tax filing season. (Photographer: Timothy Fadek/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The IRS noted that identity thieves will also use recent news events and tragedies as part of an effort to trick taxpayers. 

Another common tax season scam involves identity thieves contacting tax professionals posing as new, potential clients by email or phone to access a company’s systems that could enable them to file fake tax returns to secure a refund.

IRS’ VENMO CRACKDOWN DELAYED BUT NOT DEAD THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Daniel Werfel

IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel warned, "People should be incredibly wary about unexpected messages that can be an elaborate trap by scam artists, especially during filing season." ((Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images) / Getty Images)

Taxpayers should be on alert for phishing emails sent by fraudsters claiming to come from the IRS or another legitimate entity like a state tax organization or financial firm that looks to lure unsuspecting victims with the promise of a phony tax refund or false allegations of tax fraud. 

Similarly, "smishing" messages sent via text message have emerged as a similar technique and may claim a taxpayer’s account has been put on hold or send a fake unusual activity report with "solutions" to restore the recipient’s account.

Individuals "should never respond to tax-related phishing or smishing or click on the URL link," the IRS noted. "Instead, the scams should be reported by sending the email or a copy of the text/SMS as an attachment to phishing@irs.gov."

Hacker computer monitors

Unexpected emails or text messages purporting to be from the IRS or other official tax community sources could be from fraudsters and contain malware or ransomware. (iStock / iStock)

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The IRS notes that it initiates most contacts through regular mail, so taxpayers shouldn’t be getting an unexpected message by email, text or social media about a bill or tax refund.

Partners in the IRS Security Summit also reminded taxpayers and others to never click on any unsolicited communication that claims to be the IRS or another entity in the tax community because such links can surreptitiously load malware onto the device in use. It can also allow malicious hackers to load ransomware that prevents a device owner from accessing their system or file.

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