The good news is they did it! The IRS has agreed to help the victims of identity theft instead of protecting the criminals. According to an article in Accounting Today, “The Internal Revenue Service has agreed to change its policy on identity theft and provide victims with copies of the fraudulent tax returns that have been filed under their names by scammers.” (www.accountingtoday.com/news/tax-practice/irs-changes-identity-theft-policy-74762-1)
Had it not been for a persuasive letter from Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who wrote to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen last month in response to the massive breach, the innocent taxpayers would still be prevented from getting any helpful information. Now, the IRS has agreed to provide identity theft victims with copies of fraudulent returns, which they had previously refused to do in order to protect the privacy of the criminals.
Out of the Dark
At least now, if someone files a tax return under your name and social security number you’ll have recourse. You won’t be left in the dark completely frustrated and defenseless. You stand a chance of possibly finding out where the information breach happened in order to make changes that will prevent this kind of event from happening again. You might even be able to track down and prosecute the criminal. I am fully aware of the stressful burden taxpayers live with when they owe the IRS back taxes. I work with those in debt to the IRS everyday. But, to be a victim of tax scammers puts taxpayers into an even more stressful IRS ordeal. First victimized by the scammers, then by the IRS. The IRS has been busy focusing their efforts on protecting the criminals, which puts the victims in significant financial and emotional distress. However, Commissioner Koskinen wrote in response to Ayotte, “As a result of your letter, we have decided to change our policy regarding disclosure of fraudulent identity theft returns to victims whose name and SSN the fraudulent return was filed under…We will put together a procedure that will enable victims to receive, upon request, redacted copies of fraudulent returns filed in their name and SSN.”
Worth A Few Shakes of the Pom-Pom
Nothing too big, but a small celebration is in order. Action has been initiated in the form of the release of the actual fraudulent tax returns to the victims, plus free credit reporting for them that I mentioned in my most recent blog post. (104,000 Taxpayers To Get Free Credit Monitoring From the IRS.)
There is more work to be done, but these are definitely steps in the right direction for taxpayers. The Senator from New Hampshire also helped to introduce the Social Security Identity Defense Act of 2015. This would require the IRS to be proactive in notifying potential victims of identity theft. This is something the agency has failed to do in the past.
In addition, the IRS must notify law enforcement and the Social Security Administration must notify employers who submit fraudulently used Social Security numbers. According to the Accounting Today article, those who fraudulently use an individual’s Social Security number will be faced with civil penalties and possible jail time.