With tax season beginning, the Internal Revenue Service’s battle against fraud and identity theft continues.
There are new security safeguards in place meant to help protect taxpayers from identity theft, especially those people who prepare their own federal and state tax returns using tax software. If you’re using software for the first time to file, or a different software than you’ve previously used, you’ll need your 2015 adjusted gross income to complete the filing process. A post on the IRS.gov website explains the reason:
“Before you submit your return electronically, you must sign it electronically by creating a five-digit self-select PIN. To verify your signature, you are asked for your date of birth and either your prior-year adjusted gross income or prior-year self-select PIN. If you are a returning customer, your software product automatically generates that information. If you changed software products, you must enter that information yourself.”
Don’t be surprised if you’re asked to enter a 16-character code found on Form W-2. This verification code is an IRS initiative set to appear on around 50 million W-2s.
Also new this year, the agency won’t issue refunds before Feb. 15 on any refunds that claim the EArned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. Congress passed a law that set forth these requirements so as to give the IRS more time to detect and prevent fraud. That means even if you’re an early filer, and file your return Jan. 23 (the first day the IRS will accept them), you likely won’t see your refund until the week of Feb. 27 due to the weekends and President’s Day holiday. As always, you can track your federal refund at IRS.gov by using the Where’s My Refund? Tool.
Some states may request your driver’s license number for state tax returns, adding an additional layer of protection against identity thieves. Curious about your state’s requirements? Here’s a listing of all the state revenue department websites.
For more about this year’s changes, and some commentary from tax experts, visit this AP story.
Concerned you might be a victim of identity theft? The IRS shares some warning signs:
- More than one tax return was filed using your SSN;
- You owe additional tax, have had a refund offset, or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return;
- IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.
There are a variety of ways you may learn you are a victim and your response depends on whether the IRS tells you that you may be a victim or you tell the IRS. You may receive a letter from the IRS asking about a suspicious return with your SSN and asking you to verify your identity. Please follow the instructions in your letter. If you believe that you are a victim because your tax return rejected when e-filed because of a duplicate SSN (and you know there are no errors), you can submit Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Learn more at www.IRS.gov/identitytheft.
For those unfortunate folks who were a victim of tax related identity theft previously and now use an IP PIN, you should know that once the IRS sends this, you must use it to confirm your identity moving forward.
“The IRS will provide you with a new IP PIN every year before the start of the tax season,” according to the IRS. “Only use your most current IP PIN when filing your return. If you lose your IP PIN, you may retrieve it at Get an IP PIN tool, but you must verify your identity using the more rigorous Secure Access process.”
Are you covered for identity theft?