IRS warns of “Tax Transcript” email scam; dangers to business networks
IR-2018-226, Nov. 19, 2018
WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service and Security Summit partners today warned the public of a surge of fraudulent emails impersonating the IRS and using tax transcripts as bait to entice users to open documents containing malware.
The scam is especially problematic for businesses whose employees might open the malware because this malware can spread throughout the network and potentially take months to successfully remove.
This well-known malware, known as Emotet, generally poses as specific banks and financial institutions in its effort to trick people into opening infected documents. The Summit partnership of the IRS, state tax agencies and the nation’s tax industry remind taxpayers to watch out for this scam.
However, in the past few weeks, the scam masqueraded as the IRS, pretending to be from “IRS Online.” The scam email carries an attachment labeled “Tax Account Transcript” or something similar, and the subject line uses some variation of the phrase “tax transcript.”
These clues can change with each version of the malware. Scores of these malicious Emotet emails were forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The IRS reminds taxpayers it does not send unsolicited emails to the public, nor would it email a sensitive document such as a tax transcript, which is a summary of a tax return. The IRS urges taxpayers not to open the email or the attachment. If using a personal computer, delete or forward the scam email to email@example.com. If you see these using an employer’s computer, notify the company’s technology professionals.
The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) issued a warning in July about earlier versions of the Emotet in Alert (TA18-201A) Emotet Malware.
US-CERT has labeled the Emotet Malware “among the most costly and destructive malware affecting state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) governments, and the private and public sectors.”
Use the IRS Withholding Calculator to Determine the Right Amount of Withholding for You You
You may be getting a tax refund in early 2018, but it’s important to start planning for 2019. The IRS encourages a “paycheck checkup” following recent changes to the tax law. You can use the IRS Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov.
The calculator can help prevent having too little tax withheld -- and an unexpected tax bill next year. With the average refund topping $2,800, the calculator can also help you determine to have less tax withheld up front and receive more in your paychecks now.
Changes to the tax law affect the 2018 return you will file in 2019. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made changes, including increasing the standard deduction, removing personal exemptions, increasing the child tax credit, limiting or discontinuing certain deductions and changing the tax rates and brackets.
To use the IRS Withholding Calculator for your “paycheck checkup”:
Gather your most recent pay stub from work. Check to make sure it reflects the amount of federal income tax that you have had withheld so far in 2018.
Have a completed copy of your 2017 - or possibly 2016 - tax return handy.
Information on that return can help you estimate income and other items for 2018. However, note that the new tax law made significant changes to itemized deductions.
Use the results from the Withholding Calculator to determine if you should complete a new W-4 form and, if so, what information to put on it. If you complete a new W-4, you should submit it to your employer as soon as possible. Doing this early means there’s more time for tax withholding to take place evenly during the rest of the year. Waiting until later in the year means there are fewer pay periods to make the tax changes – which could have a bigger impact on each paycheck.
For people with more complicated financial, it’s especially important for these people to use the Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov to make sure they have the right amount of withholding:
Are a two-income family.
Have two or more jobs at the same time or only work part of the year.
Claim credits like the child tax credit.
Have dependents age 17 or older. Itemized deductions in 2017.
Have high income or a complex tax return.
Have a large tax refund or tax bill for 2017.
See IRS.gov/taxreform for more information.