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IRS Identity Theft: What to Do if Someone Files Taxes using Your SSN

Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone else files a tax return using your Social Security Number (SSN). The IRS may flag the return if it looks suspicious. Other times, the IRS may reject your return when you attempt to e-file because they have already accepted a return that contained your SSN.

You may receive a letter from the IRS if a suspicious return is filed using your SSN. If the IRS has rejected your return due to Identity theft, you can also file a paper tax return by mail and attach Form 14039.

How Tax-Related Identity Theft Happens

An identity thief can get your personal information in a number of ways. They may pretend to be a company you do business with and ask for your information. They may also illegally access your electronic information or find paper documents containing your SSN.

To protect your information, take the following steps:

  1. Use secure passwords.
  2. Install security software on your computer.
  3. Only give your personal information to companies you trust.
  4. Don’t leave personal information in places where other people can access it.
  5. Beware of phishing emails. Don’t click on links or attachments in emails from people you don’t know. Go to the websites of the companies directly.
  6. Watch out for IRS impersonators. The IRS will not send unsolicited emails or call you threatening to send you to jail or sue you.

Even when you’re careful with your personal information, identity theft can still happen to you. Someone else can fraudulently use your SSN to file a tax return and attempt to get a tax refund.

In some cases, the IRS may spot something unusual about the fraudulent return and send you a notice asking you to confirm your identity. Other times, the fraudulent return may be accepted, and your return will be rejected when you attempt to e-file it.

How to Handle Tax-Related Identify Theft

Tax-related identity theft can be a frustrating experience. The IRS has a specialized team to handle these cases and get your issues resolved. If you are a victim of tax-related identify theft, take the following steps:

  1. Don’t panic. If someone filed a return using your information without your signature or authorization, it is not a valid return. You should not be held responsible for the fraudulent filing.
  2. Expect delays. You may have to wait a lot longer than usual to receive your tax refund. The IRS needs time to verify your identity and resolve your case.
  3. Be proactive.  If the IRS rejects your return or you believe they wrongfully rejected the return, take action to notify the IRS about your potential identity theft as soon as possible.

What to Do If You Receive a Letter 4883C

If the IRS spots a suspicious return filed with your SSN, they may send you a Letter 4883C. You will be asked to confirm your identity by calling the number on the notice within 30 days.

You will need your prior-year tax return to verify your identity. Once you confirm your identity, you can tell the IRS whether or not you were responsible for filing the return. If you didn’t file it, the IRS will remove the return from your records.

If you still need to file your actual return, the IRS may ask you to file a paper tax return by mail.

Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit

If someone else files a return using your SSN and the return is accepted, you won’t be able to e-file your return. This can also be the case when someone else uses your dependent’s SSN on their tax return.

The IRS only accepts one return for each SSN per year, so the IRS rejects any returns after the initial one. When this happens, you can still file a return using the following steps:

  1. Complete your tax return and print out a paper copy.
  2. Complete Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, attach it to your tax return and submit both forms by mail.
  3. Wait for an acknowledgment letter from the IRS.

You can use Form 14039 when you receive an IRS notice because of tax-related identity theft or when you experience identity theft and are unsure whether someone used your information to file taxes. When you file this form, the IRS will flag your account for questionable activity and have a specialist look into the matter.

Identity Protection Pin (IP PIN)

An IP PIN is a six-digit code used to confirm your identity when you file a tax return. This extra layer of security can help prevent tax-related identity theft.

If you receive a CP01A notice, you must use the IP PIN when you file your tax return. The IRS will reject your return when you file electronically if your IP PIN is incorrect.

You have the option to receive an IP PIN if you receive an IRS notice inviting you to opt-in to your IP PIN. The IRS is also currently running a pilot program that allows all residents of Florida, Georgia, and the District of Columbia to request an IP PIN.

IRS Collections Caused by Identity Theft

In some cases, the IRS may use enforced collection actions against the victim of identity theft. This can happen if someone else files a tax return using your SSN and the IRS later adjusts the return and makes a deficiency assessment.

The IRS may attempt to levy your wages or assets. They may also file a lien against your property.

You should receive several notices before the IRS takes enforced collection actions. If the tax assessment involves a return you didn’t file, you may be a victim of identity theft. Contact the IRS and alert them that your identity has been stolen as quickly as possible to avoid having your assets levied.

Other Steps to Take After Your Identity is Stolen

If someone stole your identity, you should take these additional steps to protect yourself:

  1. Contact the Federal Trade Commission and file a complaint.
  2. Have one of the major credit bureaus place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
  3. Contact your state tax authority to see if you have any issues to clear up.
  4. Close any accounts created without your permission any have any improper charges removed from your accounts.

If you receive any IRS notices, respond promptly to make sure you resolve any problems early on. Contact a tax professional if you need assistance.