IRS Issues Annual “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax-Related Scams

Posted In IRS Guidance

Each year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) publishes a list of tax-related scams, which it calls the “Dirty Dozen.” This year, it provided a “Dirty Dozen” scam series warning taxpayers of such scams.

In IR-2021-135 (June 28, 2021), the IRS rolled out its “Dirty Dozen” list for 2021, warning taxpayers to look out for 12 nefarious schemes and scams. The 2021 list is separated into the following four categories:

  • Pandemic-related scams, such as Economic Impact Payment theft
  • Personal information cons including phishing, ransomware and phone “vishing”
  • Ruses focusing on unsuspecting victims, such as fake charities and senior/immigrant fraud
  • Schemes that persuade taxpayers into unscrupulous actions, such as Offer In Compromise mills and syndicated conservation easements

In IR-2021-137 (June 29, 2021), the IRS advised taxpayers to look out for unexpected schemes in the form of emails, texts, social media messages and phone calls. These phishing scams target taxpayers and tax professionals and can seem legitimate at first glance. For example, emails or phone calls purporting to be from the IRS may request financial information or request that the recipient link to an attachment. Some scams utilize social media and seek to use events like COVID-19 to trick people. Recipients of such unsolicited emails or phone calls can report the actions to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

In IR-2021-141 (June 30, 2021), the IRS shared five scams relating to requests for donations to fake charities, tax scams targeting immigrants and senior citizens, offer in compromise mills, unscrupulous tax return preparers and unemployment insurance fraud.

In IR- 2021-144 (July 1, 2021), the IRS concluded its series by warning taxpayers to watch out for certain transactions and arrangements marketed by promoters.

Prior year information on the “Dirty Dozen” lists can be found here.

Practice Point: Taxpayers and tax professionals need to be vigilant in protecting against tax-related scams and schemes. If you doubt the legitimacy of a contact purporting to be from the IRS, make sure to confirm the identity of the contact with IRS personnel. For example, we recently received an unsolicited email from an address and, to ensure the email was legitimate, we reached out to IRS personnel and were able to confirm that the email was legitimate. However, we have had other situations where emails and phone calls purporting to be from the IRS were from third parties with no connection to the government.

Kevin Spencer
Kevin Spencer focuses his practice on tax controversy issues. Kevin represents clients in complicated tax disputes in court and before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at the IRS Appeals and Examination divisions. In addition to his tax controversy practice, Kevin has broad experience advising clients on various tax issues, including tax accounting, employment and reasonable compensation, civil and criminal tax penalties, IRS procedures, reportable transactions and tax shelters, renewable energy, state and local tax, and private client matters. After earning his Master of Tax degree, Kevin had the privilege to clerk for the Honorable Robert P. Ruwe on the US Tax Court. Read Kevin Spencer's full bio.

Evan Walters
Evan Walters focuses his practice on US and international taxation. He has experience across a wide range of issues involving corporate and partnership taxation. Read Evan Walter's full bio. 

McDermott Will & Emery
McDermott Will & Emery partners with leaders around the world to fuel missions, knock down barriers and shape markets. Our team works seamlessly across practices, industries and more than 20 locations to deliver highly effective—and often unexpected—solutions that propel success. More than 1,200 lawyers strong, we bring our personal passion and legal prowess to bear in every matter for our clients and the people they serve.




jd supra readers choice top firm 2023 badge