by Susan Dean
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes nationwide, and refund fraud caused by identity theft is one of the biggest challenges facing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). At the end of fiscal 2013, the IRS had almost 600,000 identity theft cases in its inventory. With more than 3,000 employees working on identity theft cases, the IRS is focused on preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft issues as soon as possible.
There are several ways taxpayers can experience identity theft involving their tax returns. One of the most frequent encounters occur when identity thieves trying to file fraudulent refund claims using another person’s identifying information, such as their name and social security number. By filing early in the tax-filing season, thieves have a lower chance of being detected and a higher chance of receiving fraudulent refunds. More often than not, taxpayers are unaware identity theft has even occurred until they try to file their own personal income tax return. A rejection from an attempt to electronically file or a notice from the IRS stating that “more than one tax return was filed” may be a good indicator that the taxpayer has been a victim of identity theft.
A delay in receiving an expected tax refund is also an indicator of possible identity theft. Tax return identity theft delays legitimate taxpayer refunds because the return appears to be a duplicate return and therefore may be a sign of other fraud or identity problems. If a duplicate return has been filed, the taxpayer may receive notice from the IRS. A notice received from the IRS may indicate a duplicate filing, assess the taxpayer for additional tax due or indicate that an expected refund was used to offset a prior tax liability. If a taxpayer receives a notice from the IRS and suspects the possibility of identity theft they should contact the IRS Identity Protections Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490. It is also recommended that you contact a tax professional for assistance in resolving the matter as soon as possible.
Langdon & Company LLP has helped several clients in the Triangle with identity theft matters relating to filing their tax returns and receiving their income tax refunds. For questions about identity theft or assistance with resolving an identity theft issue, please contact our office.
Susan is a tax manager at Langdon & Company LLP. As an Enrolled Agent, she focuses primarily on the non-profit industry, trust income tax reporting and multi-state filings.