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When Identity Theft Hits Your Taxes


When someone uses your stolen personal information — your Social Security number, for example — to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund, that's considered tax-related identity theft. How do you know if you've been a victim? It often starts with a letter from the IRS saying there's a problem with your return. Here are some of the warning signs:

  • You get a letter from the IRS inquiring about a suspicious tax return that you didn't file.
  • You can't e-file your tax return because of a duplicate Social Security number.
  • You get a tax transcript in the mail that you didn't request.
  • You get an IRS notice that an online account has been created in your name.
  • You get an IRS notice that your existing online account has been accessed or disabled when you took no action.
  • You get an IRS notice that you owe additional tax or a refund offset, or that you have had collection actions taken against you for a year in which you didn't file a tax return.
  • IRS records indicate that you received wages or other income from an employer you didn't work for.

Here are the steps the IRS recommends you take if your Social Security number or other personal information is compromised:

  • Respond immediately to any IRS notice: Call the number provided.
  • If your e-filed return is rejected because there's a duplicate filing under your Social Security number, or if the IRS instructs you to do so, complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, a PDF. Use the fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then attach the form to your return and mail your return according to instructions.
  • Visit IdentityTheft.gov for steps you should take right away to protect yourself and your financial accounts.
  • See Identity Theft Victim Assistance: How It Works for more information about how the IRS can help you.

If you previously contacted the IRS and didn't have a resolution, contact the IRS for specialized assistance at 1-800-908-4490. The IRS has teams standing by to help you. Also, if you believe someone has filed a fraudulent return in your name, you can get a copy of the return; visit Instructions for Requesting Copy of Fraudulent Returns at the IRS website.

You should know that the IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry work in coordination as the Security Summit to protect taxpayer data. The Summit's program includes safeguards that identify suspicious returns.

The IRS wants you to know that it never:

  • Initiates contact with taxpayers by email, text or social media to request personal or financial information.
  • Calls taxpayers with threats of lawsuits or arrests.
  • Calls, emails or texts to request taxpayers' Identity Protection PINs.

Of course, we're here to help you with any IRS matters. If you're concerned about identity theft, or think you've been compromised, give us a call.

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Our firm provides the information in this e-newsletter for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. Tax articles in this e-newsletter are not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The information is provided "as is," with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.
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