Beware IRS and Oregon Dept of Revenue Scams

We’ve posted information before about ruthless scammers who call, mail, or email notices to individuals claiming that they owe back taxes in an attempt to scare them into paying nonexistent debts.  These dishonest and aggressive collectors are especially active right now, and we’ve received several reports from clients and local law enforcement agencies recently.

As a reminder, if you receive a call from someone claiming to be a tax collector:

  • DO NOT give any personal information, especially not a social security number or bank account information.  A legitimate tax agency representative will NEVER ask you for that type of information over the phone.
  • Likewise, don’t be fooled into believing a tax agent is legit just because he or she can recite some of your personal information to you over the phone.  Actual tax collectors will not share personal taxpayer identification by phone.
  • Ask for an account detail in writing before agreeing to any payment.  Both the IRS and ODR will attempt to contact you in writing before using any other method, and neither agency will ever use email for official purposes.
  • Legitimate tax agents will not make demands for specific forms of payment.  In other words, do not give payment information in the form of bank accounts numbers, credit or debit cards, wire transfer or any other financial information.  If you owe a tax debt, you can pay by mail to the official payment addresses for the agency, or pay in-person at a local office where the information can be verified.
  • Don’t be intimidated or harassed by a caller who threatens to arrest you, deport you, or contact your work or family if you refuse to pay.  While tax agencies have many tools they can use to collect a tax debt, you’ll be given ample notice if wage or bank account garnishment are in your future.  And criminal penalties don’t apply except in cases of fraud or criminal activity.

Some scammers have become even more sophisticated in their operations, and will contact taxpayers to tell them they are due a refund from the IRS or ODR.  Don’t let the “good news” trick you into giving away personal financial information.  Instead, if you think a refund notice might be authentic, end the call and contact the agency directly for verification using the information at the bottom of this post.

Finally, if you believe you’ve been contacted by a scammer posing as a tax collector, report it to the tax agency immediately.  They’ll work with local law enforcement to locate and stop criminals from tricking others out of their money.

To contact the IRS:

go to www.irs.gov and click on “Get Transcript Online” to check your tax account on the web, or call 1-800-829-1040.  If you believe you’ve been contacted by a fraudulent agent, contact the Treasury Inspector General online here.

To contact ODR:

go to ODR’s Revenue Online application page to create an account and view your tax information securely online or call 1-503-945-8738.  If you believe you’ve been contacted by a fraudulent agent, contact the Oregon Department of Revenue by using the online Fraud Reporting tool, or call 503-947-2000.

If you filed bankruptcy and have been contacted about a discharged tax debt:

Call your attorney immediately.  If your case was filed by an Armstrong Bankruptcy Law Offices attorney, please call our office at  541-683-6652, and we’ll be glad to assist you.

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Have You Received an ODR Notice in Error?

Due to a recent system update at the Oregon Department of Revenue, several demand letters have incorrectly gone out.  If you are unsure whether or not your income taxes owing to the Oregon Department of Revenue were dischargeable in your bankruptcy, please call your attorney.  If Armstrong Bankruptcy Law Offices assisted you in filing your case, call us at 541-683-6652.

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Guard Against Identity Theft at Tax Time

Identity theft is a big issue for consumers in the United States.  It’s especially important to protect yourself around tax time, when you’re sharing a lot of personal and financial information with others.  A recent CNBC article highlights some great tips to keep your data safe:

CNBC: How to Defend Against Identity Theft this Tax Season

The list starts out with a tip that might surprise you: Always check the e-file provider you use is registered with the IRS.  The list also recommends taxpayers do not store their tax files on a personal computer hard drive.  Instead, keep a hard copy and store the digital files on a CD-ROM or flash drive for reference.

Identity theft is a big hassle, and can wreak havoc on your credit.  Bankruptcy can help victims of identity theft when other methods fail to clean up the mess, but it should of course be considered only in some cases.  If you’ve been a victim and have been unable to resolve your credit issues, call our office for a free, confidential consultation with an attorney to find out if bankruptcy might work for you.

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Benefits of a Chapter 13 over a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a payment plan, where you, the debtor, pay back a percentage of the debt you owe to your creditors over a period of 3-5 years.   Chapter 13 can provide some very important added benefits that are not available in chapter 7.  An experienced bankruptcy attorney can help you determine whether Chapter 13 is right for you.

Here are some common reasons why chapter 13 might be your most beneficial option:

  • Chapter 13 can help save your home.  In many instances, second mortgages can be stripped or eliminated through a chapter 13 bankruptcy.  This can enable families to stay in their homes by only having to make payments on the first mortgage.  Also, you have up to five years to catch up on any arrears, or missed payments, to get your mortgage current.
  • If you are repaying a car or truck loan, the interest rate may be lowered in a chapter 13.  Also, in some instances, the amount to be repaid on the loan can be lowered to the current market value of the vehicle.
  • Chapter 13 may allow you to keep valuable assets that might be lost in a chapter 7.
  • Some types of debts that are not eliminated in chapter 7 can be discharged in chapter 13.
  • If you are having trouble repaying tax debt, chapter 13 can sometimes offer relief.  Payments may be lowered, and penalties and interest can be reduced or eliminated.

If you are interested in learning more about whether Chapter 13 might be a good option for you, contact a bankruptcy attorney today.

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Taxes and Bankruptcy

We often talk to clients who are surprised to find that some types of taxes can be discharged in a bankruptcy.  While it’s true that taxes are debts that are treated differently in a bankruptcy case, they can be discharged under certain conditions.  One of the factors you’ll discuss with your attorney is when the taxes became due, and when you filed a return (or if the taxing authority filed a return on your behalf).  Tax timelines can be a tricky area, so your attorney will want to gather as much information as possible about your return.  If you don’t have a copy of your return, we can usually get a transcript for you from the taxing agency.

Even if your taxes don’t qualify to be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may be able to pay them through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.  Paying tax debt through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may result in lower payments and a significant reduction in fees and interest on your debt.

If your taxes became due more than 3 years ago and you’re still struggling to pay them off, or if you’re being garnished for past-due taxes, it’s a good idea to talk to an experienced bankruptcy attorney to discuss your options.  Bankruptcy might give you the relief you need to pay your expenses and keep more of your own wages.

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