Introductory audio: Liens, levies, wage garnishments, back tax debts of all kinds. If you’re facing any of these tax debt problems, stay tuned for the next 30 minutes. This is the Levy Tax Help Show presented by Levy and Associated of Delray Beach, tax resolution specialists. Call Levy and Associated 24-hours a day, seven days a week with all of your civil tax questions, 1-800-TAX-LEVY, that’s 1-800-829-5389. Now, the Levy Tax Help Show.
Lawrence: Good morning, South Florida, and welcome once again to the Levy Tax Help Show. We hope that everyone is enjoying the fantastic weather, if you are down in Florida for Spring Break. We are almost done with the spring break, and we are almost done with ‘tis the season, but, it is the tax season.
- What do we have coming up?
In about a week, or so, we have April 15th, which falls on a Sunday. As it falls on a Sunday you actually have until Monday, which will be the 16th, but, the Monday is Emancipation Day and it a holiday which is observed in the district of Columbia. Therefore, the tax returns are not due until April 17th.
On today’s show, we have a great line-up. We actually have a guy, live in the studio here, and then we have one of the regulars on the Levy Tax Help Show, Greg Mahaffey. We will start out with Greg first because he has been around along time, both here in the Levy Office and at the IRS. Greg, you worked how many years, at the IRS?
Greg: Over thirty-two years. The standard joke was that I was there for thirty-two years and couldn’t find a real job. That was an IRS joke, of course.
Lawrence: Got it! Well, at least the IRS has a little bit of a sense of humor. You also were in the Navy, in the Gulf war and we want to say a big shout out and ‘thank you’ for your service. Thank you for making the land safe and sound. We certainly appreciate everyone who has been in the military, and also the first responders, in the Levy Office we are a big supporter of that. So, thank you, Greg, for that.
Let me actually move in to the guy that we have on the show. Lately, Greg, you have seen a lot at the IRS with identity theft. It is pretty rampant, right? Identity theft is a pretty big thing.
Greg: Oh yes.
Lawrence: Yes, filing false tax returns and they steal your identity. So, we are always conscious about there being a lot of IRS scam phone calls, by the way. So, I figured, besides the stories that we are going to talk about, I would bring in a guy that could talk a little bit about the IRS and the scam calls that you are getting, and how identity theft is such a big thing.
This guy is a guru in internet and cyber security. Mobile IT is the company. He is everything you would want, and then some, with regard to anything computer and internet based. I am going to ask him some questions about how a company or individual can protect themselves. I know there are phrases and terms that I know nothing of. I am out of my league with firewalls and all of this crazy stuff, which you could probably work circles around.
Greg, let me introduce you, and everyone listening to Kevin, from Mobile IT. He will explain how Mobile IT came to be.
Kevin: Thank you, Lawrence. Mobile IT is a managed service company. We offer a variety of IT services and security services that compliment many mid-large businesses. As far as security goes, we handle a lot of web content filtering, email filtering, virus filtering, malware, ransomware, which is running rampantly into a lot of corporations.
We have reach globally. We have offices in Michigan, Atlanta, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey.
Lawrence: Kevin, you don’t need to be there. You can handle anyone’s IT stuff no matter what. You could literally handle someone in Alaska, someone in Puerto Rico, for that matter, right?
Kevin: Exactly. Technology and the internet has made it, so we can reach all of our customers immediately. Even on my phone, I can handle a company with six hundred users, immediately.
Lawrence: So, for companies and listeners that are out there, a lot of people are getting these identity theft letters in the mail from the IRS, and they have to then have a PIN, you have to call into a verification in order to e-file. Sometimes, the e-file system is rejecting it because someone else had filed what appears to be an identity theft, fraudulent tax return. So, it is common out there. I think, no matter whether you are an individual, but what steps could someone take to protect themselves, their social security number, their computer, their cell phone. I know a lot of people take pictures of their credit card and put it no their phone, but it is common in our industry, although this isn’t tax resolution related, it somehow does blend into it because, oftentimes, we will have a client that may have an erroneous IRS debt because of an identity theft issue. They will try and e-file a tax return and they can’t. So, it really is something that we wanted just to get the public to be aware of. So, have you any suggestion on how we can protect ourselves? What shouldn’t we keep on our phones? What should we keep? What do you recommend?
Kevin: I think, a lot of confusion comes through email, as far as the identity theft and the viruses that allow the identity theft to happen. So, there is a lot of emails that people get that have the ability to take information off of your computer without you even knowing.
Lawrence: Don’t click on anything that you don’t know!
Kevin: You don’t want to click on anything that you don’t know, including attachments obviously, but, they are getting very sophisticated nowadays where they will send you an email and it could be from UPS. It could be from your doctor. It is called spearfishing. It looks like it is coming from a credible source and you click on it, and it may not even be an attachment, and before you know it you have these bots on your computer which send information to…like a ‘phone home’, and they send information to the main hacker who is sending these variants out.
So, to protect against this type of thing there are several antiviruses, malware, ransomware packages that you can get for your PC. There is TrendMicro, Norton, Malwarebytes (the paid for version), and those are just some of the plethora of applications that you can get. The main thing is to be informed as well. Anything that you read about ransomware, make sure you tune-in because it is changing every few months. They are getting much more sophisticated.
We try to educate all of our clients in what to do and what not to do. Then, we try to mitigate the risk by providing firewalls and different application services that are gateways in and out of their businesses, or home.
Lawrence: Well, I will tell you that one of the things that I picked up on from all of that, which I need to translate, is the word plethora.
Kevin: That is a lot. I was trying to think of a word that fits.
Lawrence: Plethora, that means a lot. So, Greg, let me move past plethora for a minute, and let me move over to you. When you worked at the IRS, Greg, give us a little bit of background as to what you did at the IRS? You were a revenue officer. You did a little bit of work in the offer unit. I want the listeners to know how deep that Levy bench is, so they understand that when you have a problem you go to a firm that has a deep bench. In the office here, we have two former revenue officers, both of which also used to work in the offer and compromise unit for a little while. Actually, Claire was more than a little while. She was about ten years there when she rounded out her career at the IRS. Claire Coffee is her name. Like the coffee you drink, but, I always say that I am more of a tea drinker.
Greg, what did you do when you worked at the IRS?
Greg: I started off as a regular revenue officer for approximately the first ten years or so. I was working in various offices on various collection issues at that point. I got a promotion back in 1993. It was about two-years after I came back from the war, and I became what was called ‘a revenue officer examiner’.
Many years ago, the IRS collections division used to handle all of the smaller employment tax audits. An employment tax audit is basically where they compare apples to oranges. People who get 1099s are called independent contractors. The states that there is a wide variety of factors that need to be used to determine who is an employee and who is an independent contractor. It is called, ‘The 20 Common Law Factors’. It is very technical and deep, and there are lots of caveats to the 20 Common Law Factors’. They call that the section 530 safe harbors.
In any event, I did that for approximately two and a half years. I did employment tax audits and determinations on who is an employee and who is a true independent contractor. Who has a safeguard and who has a loophole that they could use, and who doesn’t. Once it was fixed, it was going back and correcting all of the workers 1040 returns as well, for all of that. It was a heck of a job to do because you can have one company with 30 – 50 – 100 different employees. If they were all called independent contractors and they were found to be employees, it makes a big difference on their tax returns. That is one thing that I did.
The next thing after that, when examination took over that function, I went back to be a revenue officer, but this time I was put in the offer and compromise group. I was actually an offer and compromise specialist for about three years at the same time. During that time, I handled offers, basically working them and determining who is a good offer candidate, and whether the offer they were making was acceptable, and, if they qualified, and so forth. It is a very complicated process by itself, as well. I did that for about three years. Then I was called back to the revenue officer to work for what they called ‘overage case load determination’.
Basically, I was put on a special detail to work the oldest, crappiest cases they had, to get them closed and out of there, finally.
Lawrence: Greg, sorry to interrupt, but was that because they loved you, or they didn’t love you?
Greg: That was because they needed me. I could close things in a mess. I knew how to talk to tax-payers to get them to cooperate. Working with people and not against people, and actually solving many problems that were normally unsolvable. I was there for approximately six months before I got a promotion into what they called ‘(? 00:10:11) Group’ which is a special revenue officer group going after the most hard-core of tax-payers who were doing all types of nifty scams and programs in order to avoid paying the IRS at any and all cost.
Lawrence: Greg, sorry to interrupt, but when you were in that (? 00:10:27) Group, those were just the more difficult tricky cases, but in your world when you worked at the IRS, and the same world that we work in, and our space is civil tax controversy, in the Levy Office we don’t deal with any criminal investigation matters whatsoever. All we do is civil tax controversy, and some are trickier than others, but it is all civil. We don’t deal in any criminal matters for the IRS, or for the Florida Dept. of Revenue.
Also, by the way, I wanted to give a little bit of a welcome to another special guest here that, I think, we need, to give our phone number out. My young kids, I put them to work all of the time, especially my youngest. You have got to have that microphone a little closer, young man. Good morning.
Jet: Good morning, South Florida.
Lawrence: Good morning, South Florida, I love that. That is it. So, since we are about half way through the show and we haven’t given the Levy phone number out, and since part of it happens be your last name too, Mr. Levy, young Levy, ‘Master Levy’, as my father would say. Master Levy, go ahead and give the phone number out.
Jet: The local phone number here in Delray is: –
Local – 561-865-7800 Toll free – 800-TAX-LEVY.
You can come visit us at 2881 South Federal Highway, in Delray Beach.
Lawrence: Right. Do it a little bit slower. Let’s give out the phone number one more time, but nice and slow. Not like (? 00:11:49). I love my mother-in-law. She is his grandma. I love her. She is not slow. She is actually very quick.
Go ahead and give that out.
Jet: The local number, again, is 561-865-7800, and again, the toll-free number is 800-TAX-LEVY.
Lawrence: Is ‘Levy’ really your last name?
Lawrence: What is the slogan?
Jet: Don’t fear a levy, hire a Levy. You want a Levy on your side, not one against you.
Lawrence: On that note, why don’t we switch the microphone back to Mr. Mobile IT, in the house. So, Greg, let’s talk a bit about some of the week’s success stories. For example, I want to explain one of the stories that right now, you don’t even know about, but this is an ongoing story and it is going to be a success.
Right now, Claire Coffee, who used to work at the IRS for the same thirty-plus years, as you did, she was in the offer and compromise group. She ended up having an interaction with a revenue officer that wasn’t pleasant. I am being politically correct about it. It just wasn’t pleasant. The revenue officer didn’t want to listen to reason. Didn’t wasn’t to listen to her suggestions and was just rather adamant about it being their way or the highway.
Now, Claire has to go through the motions of the managerial climb. She is now going to speak to the group manager. We talked about this a bit earlier this week. It was actually on Thursday afternoon, and she said, “Look, I can’t believe that I used to work at the IRS and some of my former colleagues just don’t think in a practical, pragmatic, problem resolution-oriented approach, and they should”. I explained it to Claire because she hasn’t been here for thirty years. She was at the IRS for thirty years and has been with us for a few years. I explained that it is not any different from when you go out to a restaurant.
Kevin is a good example because he is a frequent diner. Kevin actually keeps kosher, right?
Kevin: That is correct.
Lawrence: It is great. I respect that. I am Jewish. I don’t keep kosher though. I try, but I respect that you do.
When you go out to a restaurant, whether it is a kosher restaurant or another restaurant, and Greg, we talk about this too, there are different people who have different personalities. You could have great food but horrible service. If you complain to the waitress or the waiter, they may not care. You go to the manager and maybe they don’t care, or the manager says, “I am really sorry, and gives you a cup of coffee”, or buys you a round of drinks, or give you desert. Whatever it may be. Then, the IRS, if you really draw that analogy, it is no different. The revenue officer may not be friendly, right? Not that you would like the food. (? 00:14:06). But, if you don’t like the revenue officer, you talk about it with the manager. You explain what is going on.
Claire, who used to work at the IRS, knows what is right and what is wrong, and what is reasonable and what is unfair, what is not practical, but there are a lot of different personalities out there in this world. Whether it is at a restaurant, whether you go to a doctor and they don’t have the greatest bedside manner.
In fact, before we came on the air, I was talking to Kevin about a doctor. One I like, and one that I don’t like. I went to the one that he recommended that I do like. My wife knows the other one, and it is all bedside manner and personalities, but we are not here to be friends with the IRS, or with the State. We are here to do a job. My staff has a job and that job is to resolve tax problems. That job is to advocate for tax-payers and make sure that whatever is fair, and whatever is the right resolution happens. Sometimes, it is a payment plan. You make too much, you spend too much, or you have too much, it is a payment plan. Sorry, that is just the way it works, or you can qualify for what is called, ‘currently non-collectable’, where the IRS says that you are currently unable to pay, or you have the home run where you hear it advertised a lot, that you owe the IRS $100,000, $50,000, $500,000, or $800,000, whatever the number is, and you settle for pennies on the dollar. That is called an offer and compromise.
However, that offer and compromise is based upon you qualifying. Greg, for the past few weeks, you have been sort of wrapped-up in the middle of a rather unfriendly revenue officer who just isn’t being reasonable. You have had to get in touch with the group manager. You have had to get in touch with the territory manager. You even had to reach out one level up and get in touch with the area director, which, by the way, I will say is rather uncommon. Usually, you don’t have to go that high up, but if the need arises, and if it justifies, and the case dictates it, you will.
Greg, now, after a few weeks, you are finally getting to the tail end of a resolution, but in the beginning, it was just a challenge. I don’t want to say a fight, but it was a challenge. Unfortunately, it happens. Now, when you were a revenue officer, you would have taken a different approach to it because you seemed to always be tough and that was the reputation that you had, but you were always fair. You were reasonable, and you took a pragmatic approach. You were always resolution-oriented. That is how you wanted to resolve these things. Like we talk about on the show, is there any gut reaction or gut feeling as to why these things go the way they go occasionally? Is there any reason that you think these things are gong in a certain fashion? Is it just personality? Is there nothing else we could chalk it up to?
Greg: Well, it could be personality. It could be the demands of that revenue officer’s manager and the way they operate. A lot of times, in the old, old days when I first started it was ‘dog eat dog’ out there. Everyone was enforcement-oriented. A manager would come out and scream to his groups, “Is is Friday afternoon. Someone, get me a seizure. I am going to go and take something”. That is a very bad example, but that is the way it used to be, back in the 1980s.
Lawrence: That is terrible.
Greg: It was terrible at the time. I took a different approach. I found out through my own trial and error, and experience that sometimes you can learn something from tax-payers. I let them talk. I talk to them. We have got to know the situation and so forth, providing I wasn’t dealing with a crook, and very rarely did we actually deal with crooks at the IRS. When I was in the (? 00:17:26) program, we dealt with them all of the time. However, a regular person who gets behind on their taxes for no fault of their own, or because they made stupid mistakes, or they got involved in a bad business deal, or for whatever reason, I tried to reach out and I tried to help those people, providing they are willing to listen. They weren’t always willing to listen, but generally I was successful, 90% of the time.
At the end, I found that if everyone was on the same page, and we worked together, that it was a ‘win-win’ for everyone. The IRS got their fair share of the money that was owed, or we made an adjustment to what was owed. Maybe, it was a silly penalty that was assessed on some weird taxes that weren’t filed. Well, that may be because the weren’t aware of it. Maybe the person didn’t know what they were doing. It happens. You sit down and educate the tax-payer. You get their financial information. You see how they got into the problem. Then, you fix the source of the problem. Then, you go forward from there with, what do you do about the back balances due? Are they owed? If they are owed, how can they pay it? Can they ever pay it? What options are available. For that, you need a professional on your side to actually guide you through this process of procedure. Someone who knows the IRS programs and procedures and how they operate, and how they think, and what they are looking for. So, that you know exactly what it is that you are going in for. That is why you need a professional like us. Back to you, Lawrence.
Lawrence: I want to ask you too, Kevin. When you end up having a computer issue. You are aware that at this time of year people have things on their mind, such as taxes and electronically filing. Is there a way that someone should protect their tax data, if they are listening to the show? Is there a way that they should protect it on their computer? Obviously, you want to have a password and just some of the basics but is there something that someone should do to maybe elevate that a notch and give it the spy nonsense. Is there a way for the identity theft crisis?
Kevin: You know, what I always recommend that people do is get an encryption software. There are many out there that are free. You can get them on the internet. There are ones that you can pay for that have all different sophistication levels. Then, what you do is load the software on your computer. Encrypt the files and put them on an external hard drive. It is pretty easy.
Lawrence: What you just said, is above my head, but, give Mobile IT a call and they will tell you what that means.
Kevin: That is right. We will, and we will help you with the process 100%. It is a very easy process. We walk through clients all of the time on how to do it.
Lawrence: I am actually going to put it on the computer. IRS identity theft. Let’s see what pops up. Right there. Wouldn’t you like to be the SCO when it pops up right there? Identity theft, frauds, scams, protection.
“Identity theft places a burden on its victims and presents a challenge to businesses, organizations and government agencies, including the IRS.”
“Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. If you become a victim, we’re committed to helping you resolve your case as quickly as possible.”
This is from direct from the IRS.gov website. That is what I was reading. There are a lot of things that are out there, and that is why we want to make sure. There are scams that are going on. There are these phishing scams.
Kevin: Yes. They are called spear phishing. It is a specific type of scam where you will get an email from a legitimate source, or even it looks like it is from someone from a company that you deal with, or maybe a friend that you deal with, maybe even a bank that you deal with. They disguise it. It looks very realistic. It is very hard to tell, but a lot of the more sophisticated software out there for catching fraudulent emails has a lot of artificial intelligence built into it. So, it is made to detect these types of things. It is out there.
Lawrence: You are right. It is out there. There was a bulletin around about February 2017, it is about a year old now. The IRS, State tax agencies, and tax industry issued an urgent alert to employers that the “W2 email phishing scam was evolved beyond the corporate world and is spreading to other sectors including school districts, travel organizations and non-profits. The W2 scammers are coupling their efforts to steal employee W2 information with an older scheme on wire transfers that was (? 00:21:47) some of those same organizations”. It is a dangerous email scam that was going out there. This was actually a quote by the Commissioner John, IRS, from last year. It is going on. The heading says, “Scam Evolving Targeting Schools, Restaurants, Hospitals, Travel Groups and others”. That is a year old, but it is still going on. You have got to be really careful.
Greg: One thing, if I can join in here, if you ever get an email from any federal agency, such as the IRS, that is a scam. The IRS will never send you an email, or an attachment, or a warning notice over the internet. If they do anything, they are going to send it to you by regular mail first. So, if you have received anything that says IRS on it, delete it immediately. Do not open it. Do not be curious. Get rid of it, fast. Again, the IRS does not email anyone. They can fax information, but you have heard about that, but they do not ever email anyone. So, if you are getting anything out there from the IRS, delete it, fast.
Lawrence: The IRS loves the mail. They do not like email. They don’t even email actually. Very, very uncommon that you would actually email. Well, you won’t receive an email from the IRS, let’s put it that way, but, go ahead Kevin.
Kevin: I just wanted to add one more thing to take away from some of this technical jargon that I have been talking about is, if you want to prevent fraud, phishing emails, and this type of thing on an individual level, like yourself Lawrence, you want to look for antivirus software, malware software that has threat protection incorporated within the application. So, anything with threat protection, phishing, spear phishing. Most of the newer antivirus companies have all of that included, but it is very important to have ATP threat detection, and spear phishing, and phishing.
Lawrence: Yes. So, what if you get sea sick?
Kevin: Well, if you are like me, and you get sea sick, you are in trouble.
Lawrence: With all of the phishing.
Alright, let me have Mr. Levy give out the phone number, quickly, as we come to the top of the hour here. We have about three minutes left.
So, if someone wants to give us a call, Mr. Levy, young Levy, what number should they call.
Jet: You can either call the Delray Office here.
Locally – 561-865-7800 Toll free – 800-TAX-LEVY.
Lawrence: ‘Levy’ really is your last name, right?
Lawrence: What is the ‘don’t fear a levy…?’
Jet: Don’t fear a levy, hire a Levy, and you always want a Levy on your side, not one against you.
Lawrence: Right. The IRS will issue levies, like our last name. I bring people on the show, whether it is Kevin, whether it is Greg, whether it is the young Levy here because we want people to know that we are down to earth human beings. Besides my day job, what am I? Am I your dad?
Lawrence: The last time we checked, yes. Am I a pretty good dad?
Lawrence: The best dad?
Lawrence: Okay. Good. I hope Kevin’s kids, and Greg’s kids will all say that we are all the best dads’ out there. You don’t seem too confident, but it is early, so that is okay.
Besides being in the tax resolution business and doing the accounting work that we do, and the taxes and so forth, we are also real guys. Kevin is a dad. He has got kids. We really care about our clients. Greg is a dad. He is a husband. You have grand-kids, right, Greg?
Greg: Six of them.
Lawrence: Six of them, yes. So, you are a grandfather too, but we are here to help resolve your tax problems. In the Levy Office, we have former IRS revenue officers, like Greg, and like Claire. We have the attorneys. We have the CPAs. We have what is called the enrolled agents which all function as power of attorneys on an IRS 2848 form. We deal with everything from soup to nuts, as the saying goes, in civil tax controversy.
So, if you are listening to the show and you haven’t filed in a few years because you are worried. If you are listening to the show and you were about to do something to fix your IRS problems and then ‘boom’, hurricane IRMA hits here in South Florida, and the IRS was put on hold. It was literally for a long time. It is called an O-Freeze. The IRS collection activity was put on hold, but now, as of February 1st, IRS is back on. The light switch has been turned back on and the collection is back as it was.
If you can’t sleep at night because you are worried about the IRS. If you can’t function in your day job because you are stressed about a levy attaching to your pay check, or a levy on your bank account when you are about to pay your bills, you give us a call.
As we approach the last show before April 15th, and we have one more before next week. If you have a tax problem, you give us a call. We are available for seven days per week.
The Levy Office, much like the saying in Vegas, “We never sleep”. We enjoy the early morning calls. We enjoy the weekend calls on the Saturday or the Sunday. We want you to call in. Lately, we have had a lot of traction with the show because it is content-driven. We talked today about what to do to help protect yourself with internet and security, and how to make your business better. This is what Mobile IT does. So, thanks for coming on the show.
Kevin: My pleasure.
Lawrence: Also, we have the famous and infamous Greg Mahaffey, the former IRS revenue officer of over thirty years that is now on the other side, advocating for tax-payers, protecting your rights, making sure that the IRS does the right thing and that you are able to resolve things. It is not always going to be an offer and compromise, but there is going to be a resolution, and that is what we have to do. Bless you, Kevin. We will end on that note as a ‘Bless you’.
Kevin: Thank you.
Lawrence: So, signing off for now. Thank you, young Jet, for coming in and for waking up nice and early. We love when you come on, but I love my kids, I love my wife, and I love what I do for a living, and thanks to my staff.
On that note, enjoy the rest of the weekend, South Florida. You take care. We will speak to you again, next time.