Text Script of Audio Interview on the 2009 Dirty Dozen
Branscome: Hi, everybody, I'm Theresa Branscome from the Internal Revenue Service. Every year, the IRS issues the "Dirty Dozen.” It's the list of 12 common tax scams. And here to talk to us about it is my colleague John Lipold. He is a media relations specialist at the IRS. John, thanks for joining us.
Lipold: Thanks for inviting me.
Branscome: John, what's on the list?
Lipold: Why don't we start with phishing?
Lipold: You know, phishing is a big problem for a lot of organizations. When it comes to the IRS, criminals are posing as IRS representatives. They're sending out e-mails that appear to come from the IRS.
Branscome: Well, how can you tell if it's from the IRS or not?
Lipold: Well, it can be a little tricky, because these e-mails look quite authentic.
Lipold: However, the thing you need to remember is that the IRS generally doesn't initiate contact with you through an e-mail.
Branscome: Oh, really? So, how does the IRS contact people?
Lipold: If the IRS wants to contact you, it'll normally send you a letter.
Branscome: All right, so, what if you get one of these e-mails?
Lipold: If you get an e-mail, the IRS has set up a special e-mail address that you can forward it to. It's called phishing -- that's spelled with a P-H, so firstname.lastname@example.org .
Branscome: Well, what's the danger anyway with these e-mails?
Lipold: The criminals want you to reveal personal financial information. They want to clean out your bank account, they want to rack up charges on your credit card, and they want to even steal your identity.
Branscome: Okay, well, sometimes they have links in there. Can you just click one of those links and kind of check it out?
Lipold: If it's a suspect e-mail, do not click on the link. Doing so, you can download dangerous software to your computer.
Branscome: So, really, these are big problems all the way around.
Lipold: That's right.
Branscome: Okay, so, we've covered phishing. Anything else on the list?
Lipold: Hidden income offshore.
Branscome: What does that mean?
Lipold: Some individuals are opening financial accounts overseas with the intent of hiding income and earnings from the IRS.
Branscome: And so how do they get this money?
Lipold: Well, they can access their accounts by credit card, debit card, even a wire transfer.
Branscome: All right, is it illegal to have money in a foreign bank account?
Lipold: No, it's not illegal to have a foreign bank or financial account.
Lipold: But it is illegal to hide funds from the IRS.
Branscome: Okay, well, what if there's someone who's doing that right now?
Lipold: The IRS has a voluntary disclosure program right now just for this purpose. So come in and take advantage of it while you still can.
Branscome: All right. I've heard about this thing called "frivolous arguments.” What does that mean?
Lipold: There is a whole list of frivolous arguments that some people have used to try to get out of their tax obligations.
Lipold: They're usually based on unfounded claims that the tax code is unconstitutional or that paying taxes is merely voluntary.
Branscome: So, John, what's your bottom-line message to taxpayers when it comes to the "Dirty Dozen"?
Lipold: There's no secret formula that can erase your tax obligation. The law is very clear. Everybody has to pay their fair share.
Branscome: Okay, so, what you're saying is that no one has a right to disobey the law.
Lipold: That's right.
Branscome: Okay, any final message?
Lipold: If it's too good to be true...
Together: ...it probably is.
Branscome: That's right, John. Okay, well, thank you so much for this information.
Lipold: Thank you.
Branscome: And thank you all for joining us. I'm Theresa Branscome. You can learn about everything that is on the "Dirty Dozen” at the IRS's official website, irs.gov.