Thoughts on Telemarketing

Thoughts on Telemarketing

Is it OK to Call IRS Tax Lien Recipients?

While I was at the National Tax Forums last week, I spoke with an IRS Special Agent based in Jacksonville. She works for TIGDA and we discussed some of the problems they’re seeing in the field when it comes to tax lien marketing.

The one repeated complaint she was seeing was auto-dialers calling people, some of whom had tax problem and some who did not. One of these recordings reportedly would tell people they had a tax debt of a certain amount, and then to press “1” to speak with a representative. Apparently, it’s not an easy task to track these companies down, so they continue to operate.

This is the illegal and unethical way to do telesales, of course. But even with a live human calling recent tax lien recipients, as a number of companies do (and for some reason a lot of them are based in Colorado), there are legal concerns.

According to Circular 230, an unlicensed practitioner should not give tax advice and portray themselves as an expert. And that’s exactly what many of these companies do- they’ll have their sales floor say you can “settle for pennies on the dollar.”

A second concern is the “Do Not Call” list. While it’s more-or-less legal to cold call businesses, it is definitely not legal to cold call individuals without putting their phone number through the DNC list filter. It could cost you very big dollars by ignoring this federal law.

My thoughts on telemarketing are that it’s not worth the liability, especially on a local scale. Due to this, many tax lien data companies are no longer selling telephone numbers along with names and addresses due to the risks associated with the information being used improperly. My practice is investing in mailings to FTL recipients, and we have a full office every day (and no sleepless nights) because of it.

-Andrew R. Schaefer, EA

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2 Responses to “ Thoughts on Telemarketing ”

  1. Jay F. says:

    Thanks for your article. According to my research: the following IRS publication indicates that

    01 An unenrolled preparer shall NOT make, directly or indirectly, an UNINVITED solicitation of employment, except as noted below, in matters related to the IRS. Solicitation includes, but is not limited to, in-person contacts, TELEPHONE COMMUNICATIONS, and personal mailings directed to the specific circumstances unique to the recipient. This restriction does not apply to (1) seeking new business from an existing or former client in a related matter or (2) Solicitation by mailings, the contents of which are designed for the general public.

    So that makes it “illegal” in my book.

    • Andrew says:


      Thanks for your comment. For the unenrolled preparer telemarketing is clearly off-limits. Since most practices of any size don’t put their EAs on the phone to make cold calls, that places the majority of lien telemarketing campaigns in either a legal grey area or perhaps downright illegal. That’s why doesn’t append phone numbers or recommend the strategy. Non-deceptive tax lien letters work just fine, particularly for small regional firms.

      As an aside, I’ve been following your blog for a few years now and appreciate your thorough analysis of, and ethical approach to, the tax problem resolution profession. I’ve recommended your site to countless tax pros seeking guidance on how to operate their practice. Keep up the good writing and work!

      Andrew R. Schaefer, EA