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  • Writer's picturePaula Field, CPA, CFE

IRS Private Debt Collection: How Collection Agencies Are Involved

The IRS employs private collection agencies (PCAs) to manage certain overdue tax debts, especially when these accounts are inactive due to a lack of IRS resources or the inability to locate the taxpayer. This initiative, mandated by Congress, helps the IRS handle large volumes of delinquent taxes by outsourcing to agencies that specialize in debt collection. By law, these private collection agencies are authorized to engage with taxpayers to set up payment arrangements, ensuring that debts are paid within a stipulated period, typically up to seven years. 


Process of Assigning and Collecting Debt 


When the IRS assigns your tax debt to a private collection agency (PCA), the process begins with two critical notifications. Initially, the IRS sends out Notice CP40 along with Publication 4518, informing you that your overdue tax account has been transferred to a private collection agency. Following this, the private collection agency sends their initial contact letter, which includes essential information on resolving your overdue taxes and contains a Taxpayer Authentication Number for identity verification purposes. This letter serves to identify them as IRS contractors tasked with tax collection and to outline the next steps for setting up payment arrangements. It's important to verify the legitimacy of the agency using the Taxpayer Authentication Number provided in the initial letters from both the IRS and the private collection agency. 


The private collection agency will engage with you to establish a feasible payment plan, allowing up to seven years to settle the debt, depending on the collection expiration date. They are required to conduct themselves professionally, respecting your rights as a taxpayer and adhering to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. It's crucial to remember that a private collection agency cannot take enforcement actions like issuing levies or liens; such actions are reserved for the IRS. If there are any issues with the PCA's conduct, there are specified channels through which you can report inappropriate behavior. 


Tips for Communicating with Debt Collectors 


  1. Authenticating Collectors: When you are first contacted by a private collection agency (PCA), it is crucial to confirm their legitimacy. The IRS sends a Notice CP40, and the PCA follows up with an initial contact letter, both containing a Taxpayer Authentication Number. Use this number to verify the identity of the PCA before proceeding with any communication. 


  1. Safe Communication Practices: Always ensure that all payments are directed to the IRS, not to the PCA. Legitimate PCAs will never request direct payments or payments through unconventional methods like prepaid debit or gift cards. If contacted by phone, refer to the initial letters for verification before discussing any details. Remember, a PCA will first send you a letter before any phone communication occurs. 


  1. Reporting Issues: If you encounter any inappropriate behavior or suspect fraudulent activities by a PCA, it is important to report these issues. Each initial letter from the IRS and PCA includes details on how to report misconduct. Maintaining records of all communications with a PCA can aid in resolving potential disputes or misunderstandings. 





If the IRS assigned your tax debt to a private collection agency, and you are unsure how to respond, seek assistance from a trusted tax professional to determine the best course of action. At Lucrum Legal Accounting, we are here to help! 


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