You’re not alone if you’ve ever had that sinking feeling after carefully preparing to e-file your taxes only to be informed by the IRS website that you’ve already filed one. Unfortunately, while the IRS continues to make significant progress in reducing tax identity theft, many of us are still affected.
The reason for this is that criminals may have obtained your Social Security number and used it to file a false tax return in your name. As a result, they might be able to claim the tax refund (opens in a new tab) that you were due. You not only lose the money, but you also have to deal with the administrative mess that follows.
Furthermore, you must still notify the IRS of the problem, even if they may have already contacted you in some cases. You’ll also have to file a legitimate tax return. Finally, if a tax refund is due, you’ll be back in line. Sure, it’s inconvenient.
If you’ve been the victim of tax-related ID theft (opens in new tab), you’ll need a lot of time to get things straightened out, your records straightened out, and all of the other dust to settle in the aftermath of a possible crime. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to deal with the fallout from tax-related identity theft; you’ll have to work your way through it one step at a time.
Starting at the beginning, consider the best way to notify the IRS of the problem. If you’ve received a message from the IRS website or a letter in the mail informing you that multiple returns have been filed, you should contact them right away. Call IRS Identity Protection at 800-908-4490 to speak with a representative who can walk you through the process and answer any questions you might have.
If you suspect identity theft in other areas of your life, you may need to fill out IRS Form 14039 (opens in new tab), Identity Theft Affidavit. You’ll also need to confirm your identity, and the IRS has a form for that called Letter 5071C or 6331C that you can use.
If you’d rather speak with someone about it, the 5071C or 6331C letter should include a toll-free IRS Identity Verification phone number. Make a call to one of the three major credit reporting agencies while you’re on the phone.
Request a fraud alert from these companies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion (opens in new tab). If they do it with just one, the others will be notified. Finally, go to IdentityTheft.gov to report the suspected fraud to the FTC (opens in a new tab).
It’s time to start filing
Of course, you’ll still have to file your tax return (opens in a new tab), so make sure you do it on time. You must submit your paperwork even if the IRS is currently investigating your case. If you can’t e-file because the IRS system says you’ve already filed, there’s always the traditional paper route. So print it out and get it to the post office before the deadline.
If you were wise and filed your tax return early, you’ll most likely receive a letter from the IRS informing you that multiple returns have been filed in your name. Fraudsters are most likely to have stolen your Social Security number. To confirm your identity, you must contact the IRS using the methods listed above and complete the IRS’s verification process.
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Will your tax refund be delayed as a result of tax-related identity theft, which is the final question in this saga? You’ll almost certainly have to wait because the IRS, understandably, has a lot of cases to deal with.
According to data from the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service, a resolution can take up to and sometimes over three months.
If you’re having trouble resolving your identity theft issue, contacting them may be a good option. Furthermore, the Taxpayer Advocate Service can often assist with ongoing identity theft and other tax-related issues. Even better, this is a free service, which could come in handy if you’re having financial difficulties as a result of any fraud that has occurred.