A law going into effect this month is forcing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to employ private debt collection companies, a plan which will not only cost the agency money, but will make it easier for scammers to defraud Americans.
The provision, which is buried in the new $305-billion highway bill passed by Congress, means that bill collectors will be using the same tactics to collect tax debt as they do for a late credit-card payment. That concerns IRS officials, who have long warned Americans not to take seriously calls from scam artists claiming to be from the agency.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told The Washington Post that the agency’s traditional message has been “if you are surprised to be hearing from us, you’re probably not hearing from us because you won’t hear from us first by phone.”
That won’t be the case anymore, as he told a Senate committee last summer. “So now if you suddenly have private debt collectors calling up, saying they’re from the IRS, they’re going to run into the work that we and the inspector general and everybody else has had warning taxpayers,” Koskinen said.
“There is a risk calls from private debt collectors will muddy that message,” national taxpayer advocate Nina Olson told the Post. “There is also a risk scammers will study the dynamics of the private collection agency calls and try to mimic them to fool taxpayers. As the IRS develops the program’s procedures, it will have to take steps to minimize…