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Tips for Handling Identity Verification Requests From the IRS

Updated for Tax Year 2021 / October 16, 2021 12:52 AM


OVERVIEW

In response to the increasing tax-related identity theft problem, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is monitoring tax returns for signs of fraudulent activity. The most frequent scam is when thieves use a person’s name and Social Security number to file a fraudulent return and steal a tax refund. When the IRS suspects a return is fraudulent, the agency will request identity verification from the person whose name and address is listed on the return. Here's how to handle these requests.


What Is an IRS Letter 5071C?

Senior woman using laptop on the couch

If the IRS suspects that a tax return with your name on it is potentially the result of identity theft, the agency will send you a special letter, called a 5071C Letter. This letter is to notify you that the agency received a tax return with your name and Social Security number and it believes it may not be yours. The letter asks you to take specific steps to verify your identity and confirm whether or not the return is actually yours.

How Do I Comply With Verification?

The IRS offers only two ways to verify your identity:

Only those who receive a 5071C Letter should use the verification system. The letters are sent to you via U.S. mail. They are never emailed, and the IRS does not initiate verification requests by phone.

The IRS prefers that taxpayers use the online system; because phone callers may experience delays due to the high volume of calls the IRS receives. The phone number on your letter can be used only for verification purposes, not for any other tax issues.

How Will I Be Asked to Verify My Identity?

The ID Verify website or phone system asks questions that only you can answer correctly. What you will need:

  • Your previous year’s tax return
  • Your current year’s tax return
  • All supporting forms and schedules

What Happens After I Finish the Verification Process?

If the verification proves you are the person named on the return and that you personally filed the return, the return will be processed. After successful verification, it takes about 6 weeks to complete processing.

The return will be rejected and investigated as identity theft/tax fraud if:

  • Verification fails to confirm your identity or that you filed the return
  • If the verification process is not completed, or can’t be completed

Respond to all requests from the IRS to validate your identity in order to avoid automatic rejection of what could be a valid tax return.

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