Fact Check

IRS Notification: Rejected Federal Tax Return/Payment or Notice of Refund

Is the IRS sending out e-mail notices about tax refunds or stimulus payments?

Published Aug. 28, 2007


Phishing bait:   Notice from the IRS indicating the recipient's electronic tax return or payment has been rejected or that the recipient has a refund coming.


[Collected via e-mail, October 2010]

Subject: Your Federal Tax Payment ID 010357109 is rejected.

Urgent Report.

Your Federal Tax Payment ID: 01037524 has been rejected.

Return Reason Code R21 - The identification number used in the Company Identification Field is not valid.

Please, check the information and refer to Code R21 to get details about your company payment in transaction contacts section:

EFTPS: The Electronic Federal Tax Payment System

PLEASE NOTE: Your tax payment is due regardless of EFTPS online availability. In case of an emergency, you can always make your tax payment by calling the EFTPS.

[Collected via e-mail, January 2008]

After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a Stimulus Payment.

Please submit the Stimulus Payment Online Form in order to process it.

A Stimulus Payment can be delayed for a variety of reasons.
For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline.

To submit your Stimulus Payment form, please download the document attached to your email.

Note: If filing or preparation fees were deducted from your 2007 Refund or you received a refund anticipation loan, you will be receiving a check instead of a direct deposit.

Internal Revenue Service

[Collected via e-mail, August 2007]

From: "Internal Revenue Service"
Subject: IRS Notification - Fiscal Activity
Date: Sun, 26 Aug 2007 23:57:35 +0300

After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $268.32.

Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 6-9 days in order to process it.

A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons. For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline.

To access the form for your tax refund, please click here

Internal Revenue Service
© Copyright 2007, Internal Revenue Service U.S.A. All rights reserved.

[Collected via e-mail, February 2009]

Re: US Stimulus Check Information
If you're one of the millions of Americans struggling in today's economy, help is available.

You've been chosen for the chance to get a US Stimulus Check based on your annual income level. (Participation required. See below for details.)

Refer to the chart below to determine the amount of money you can receive:

$0 - $35,000........................$709 US Stimulus Check
$35,000 - $70,000.................$615 US Stimulus Check
$70,000+.............................$504 US Stimulus Check

Make your selection here, then follow the instructions on our website before this offer expires.

[Collected via e-mail, July 2009]

Tax Refund Notification

After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity, we have determined that you are eligible to receive tax refund of 488.50 GBP.

You are require to submit the tax refund request using the tax refund reference below and allow up 6-9 working days in order to process it

[link elided]

Note : A refund can be delayed for different reasons, for example submitting invalid records or applying after deadline.

we apologise for any inconveniences and thank you for your co-operation.

Yours Sincerely

HM Revenue & Customs

[Collected via e-mail, June 2011]

Department of Treasury Internal Revenue Source

Important information about your tax return

We are unable to process your tax return

We recived your tax return. However, we are unable to process the return as field.

Our records indicate that the person identified as the primary taxpayer or spouse on the tax return did not provided all the required documents shown on the tax form. Our records are based on information received from the Social Security Administration.

Based on this information, the tax account for the individual has been locked

What you need to do

Print out the attached notification and list of missing documents, fill it in, add the documents and send the following information to the adress shown in the attached notification.

List of required documents:

1. A copy of this letter

2. Notification letter

3. A photocopy of valid U.S. Federal or State Government issued identification.

Keep this notice for your records. If you need assistance, please don't
hesitate to contact us

[Collected via e-mail, January 2012]

IRS notice,

The analysis of the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity has indicated that you are entitled to receive a tax refund of $115.25 Please submit a request of the tax refund and a processing of the request will take 7-14 days. A tax refund can be delayed by different reasons. For instance submission of invalid records or sending after the deadline.

Please find the form of your tax refund attached and fill out it and send a report.

Internal Revenue Service.


Origins:   Notices purporting to come from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) make good phishing bait for a number of reasons:

  • Notices from institutions of the federal government (especially an agency with the ominous reputation of the IRS) grab people's attention.
  • Unlike other phishing schemes that emulate mailings from various private financial institutions (e.g., Bank of America) and are therefore easily recognized as phony by many recipients (because they do no business with those companies), a forged IRS notice has the potential to take in a much larger pool of victims, as most adult U.S. residents have dealings with that agency.
  • Many people find the federal income tax filing process complicated and confusing, so the idea that they might have unclaimed refunds or payments waiting for them to claim seems plausible.

An August 2007 mass phish e-mailing (reprised in January 2012) took advantage of those points, spamming millions of Internet users with phony notices that advised recipients they were eligible to receive tax refunds (of amounts such as $109.30 or $268.32) and invited them to click on a link that took them to a form

through which they could claim those refunds. Of course, the link included in the messages didn't actually send users to the genuine IRS web site; it redirected claimants to an imposter site that instructed them to enter sensitive personal information (e.g., Social Security number and debit card number) in order to "deposit" their refunds.

Similarly, January 2009 versions redirected claimants to an imposter site with a form for them to fill out in order to claim stimulus payments, and an October 2010 version used the lure of claiming that the recipients' Electronic Federal Tax Payments (EFTPS) had been rejected due to invalid information and sent them to a phony imitation of the real EFTPS site to enter new information.

The IRS never offers refunds through e-mail or sends out unsolicited e-mails to taxpayers. When the IRS needs to contact a taxpayer, it sends notice via U.S. Mail, and every such notice includes a telephone number that the recipient can call for confirmation. Should you need to visit the IRS web site for any reason, go there directly (by entering the www.irs.gov URL into your web browser) rather than following links in e-mail messages.

The IRS says about such e-mails that:

The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail. In addition, the IRS does not request detailed personal information through e-mail or ask taxpayers for the PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank or other financial accounts.

Do not open any attachments to questionable e-mails, which may contain malicious code that will infect your computer. Please be advised that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers via e-mails.

The EFTPS web site also states that:

EFTPS values your privacy and security and will never attempt to contact you via e-mail. If you ever receive an e-mail that claims to be from EFTPS or from a sender you do not recognize that mentions a payment made through EFTPS, forward the e-mail to phishing@irs.gov or call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

Last updated:   9 January 2012


    Price, Wayne T.   "Scam Poses as IRS Solicitation."

    Florida Today.   28 August 2007.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.