Tax Return Identity Theft!

In Accounting & Finances, Business, Taxes on April 4, 2014 by Sufen Wang

tax_identity_theftThe Identity Thief’s Motto: Be Whoever You Want to Be…And Get a Refund


Still need to file your tax return? “You” might already have – without even knowing it. ‘Tis the season for one of the most popular crimes around: tax return identity theft.


ned-and-larry-comics-identity-theft-pet-comics-fish-comics-cartoon-animals-funny-animal-cartoons2013 was a big year for people who pretended to be other people in order to get refunds. The IRS detected about 915,000 cases of identity theft. Then there were the 480,000 fraudulent refunds claimed using the SSN’s of Puerto Rican citizens. And on top of all that, $5 billion in just plain phony tax returns got processed last year.


That’s quite a lot of money that ended up in the wrong hands. But on the other hand, from 2011 to Nov. 2013 the IRS stopped over 14.6 million fishy-looking tax returns involving more than 50 billion bucks. And with 3,000 employees newly assigned to investigate identity theft, and 35,000 more trained in detection basics, there’s going to be a lot of fresh eyes on the look-out for tax return impostors.


$10 billsHow exactly do fake tax returns get through in the first place? Elementary my dear Watson, Elementary: the IRS sends out the refund first and THEN processes the W-2s and 1099s it receives. By that time, the poser (if they’re smart) is long gone, probably using the refund to buy a new futon. The victims of tax return identity theft don’t realize somebody else has filed as them until they go to file themselves, and whoops, their refund has already been claimed.


identity_theft3The other problem is that the IRS doesn’t routinely check names against social security numbers. Why hold up a bank wearing an ex-president mask when a thief can just create a name and an SSN and have that refund conveniently sent on over?


taxfraudAnd when the refund goes into the wrong pocket, it’s a 180-day-long pain in the butt process for the victim to get it back. By the time the investigation is done, any vacation or investment plans will be down the drain. The best defense against tax return identity theft is a good offense: file early. If the tax refund is sent out to the right person, it can’t be sent out to the wrong person.


Sufen Wang, M.S.Accountancy
Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793
Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

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