An identity thief uses a legitimate taxpayer’s identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund. Generally, the identity thief will use a stolen SSN to file a forged tax return and attempt to get a fraudulent refund early in the filing season. You may be unaware that this has happened until you file your return later in the filing season and discover that two returns have been filed using your SSN. Common warnings that your SSN has been used fraudulently with the IRS include your tax professional notifying that an e-filed return could not be filed because the IRS’s records show that you have already filed a tax return (and you have not), or you receive an IRS notice or letter that states that (1) more than one tax return for you was filed; (2) you have a balance due, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return; or (3) IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.
What to do if your tax records were affected by identity theft? If you receive a notice from IRS, respond immediately. If you believe someone may have used your SSN fraudulently, please notify IRS immediately by responding to the name and number printed on the notice or letter. You will need to fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039.
You will be required to file a paper tax return if the IRS’s records show that a return has already been filed by you. The IRS will need to assign you a special PIN number. For victims of identity theft who have previously been in contact with the IRS and have not achieved a resolution, please contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit, toll-free, at 1-800-908-4490.
How can you minimize identity theft during the tax season?
- If you have your annual tax information from your brokerage firms, banks, retirement funds, etc. mailed to you, you need to make sure that these documents are not allowed to sit for a lengthy period in an easily accessible mail box. Perhaps all statements should be accessed online by you to avoid having documents sitting in your mailbox for an extended period of time.
- E-File as early as possible. If a thief files a tax return after you have filed, the IRS will reject the second filing.
- Secure your personal records stored at your residence.
- Your computer needs to be secure. Consider consulting with a computer expert to minimize identify theft. Discuss with your IT consultant about installing Anti-Spyware, Anti-Malware, and Anti-virus software on your computer. Make sure you use a secured Wi-Fi line. Do you have a strong firewall? Are you updating security patches for the software on your computer? A likely recommendation will be to use strong passwords to minimize your records being hacked and to periodically change your passwords.
- Use a professional and experienced tax preparer who has an encrypted file transfer protocol system for the transfer of tax documents. Avoid tax preparers who are not CPAs, enrolled agents, and attorneys. All of the aforementioned persons are held to higher ethical and professional standards than other preparers.
- Don’t use email to send sensitive information to your tax professional or to any other person.
- Realize that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.
If you want to learn more about your personal situation, we invite you to call 610-594-2601 today to make an appointment at our Exton PA CPA office to discuss your situation. You can also schedule a consultation at Click Here.