The IRS Will Give You the Name of Your Identity Thief—But Only if You Ask

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Is there anything more frustrating than discovering someone has filed a tax return in your name and stolen your refund check? Perhaps finding out that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) won’t disclose the thief’s identity or share the bogus return with you. In cases where the thief is a friend or relative, knowing the name can help you avoid identity theft in the future.

Last tax season, an estimated $2.3 billion in refund claims was paid incorrectly to hackers. This year, filers who find their tax refunds delayed by thieves can now take action and request copies of fraudulent tax returns.

Since the Fraudulent Return Request Program started in late 2015, the IRS has gotten more than 5,000 requests for copies of fraudulent returns. However, the new program still needs improvement. The Treasure Inspector General for Tax Administration’s (TIGTA) review of the initial applications indicated that staffers mishandled over 25 percent of them. Under the program, applicants are supposed to receive a response within 30 days, but some waited weeks longer. In some cases, a copy of the return was not provided at all.

“The government should do everything in its power to assist victims of identity theft,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General. “This includes the accurate and timely processing of identity theft victims’ requests for copies of fraudulent tax returns.”

If you ever have the misfortune of experiencing tax identity theft, exercise your right to know who perpetrated the crime. Even with some details redacted, you can glean a lot of useful clues from bogus returns. Take every step possible to protect your identity—this tax year and beyond!

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