Taxpayers who anticipate big refunds each year often look forward to the start of tax filing season. They know that within a few weeks that they will have a refund that totals hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
However, this year's tax filing season will be markedly different because the IRS plans to hold the first round of refunds until February 15 or later. The delay ensures that people get the money coming to them and that they avoid becoming the victims of identity theft.
A New Approach to Wrongful Tax Returns and Identity TheftThe IRS estimates that it paid out more than $3 billion in fraudulent tax refunds last year. That money went to identity thieves who stole or conned people out of their personal identification information like Social Security numbers, EINs, banking information, and other details needed to file a return.
Identity theft has been a long-standing problem that the IRS has dealt with each tax season, prompting it to take new measures this year. During the 2017 tax filing season, the IRS plans on using new identity detection programs that will flag fraudulent returns and prevent refunds from going to the wrong people.
Part of this plan, however, involves holding the first round of refunds until February 15 or later. People who count on that money to pay bills or buy items for their homes may be disappointed and frustrated at having to wait for their refund checks. Still, the IRS warns that the delay is for the good of taxpayers who otherwise could become the victim of fraud and identity theft.
Identity Theft Protective MeasuresWhat can you do to help the IRS in its bid to protect your identity and refund? Your first step should be to answer all of the tax return questions accurately so that yours is not flagged for review. Along with providing sensitive details like:
- Your Social Security number
- Your EIN, if applicable
- Your date of birth
- The Social Security numbers of your spouse and dependents
How can you find your last year's AGI? Your best solution would be to use the same tax preparer as last year. Your tax preparer should have your last year's returns on file if you have misplaced your copy. You also can order a copy of your transcript returns from the IRS before filing taxes.
You also should review to whom you give out your personal information over the phone or via email. Identity thieves are extraordinarily adept at tricking people out of these details either by using flattery or threats.
In fact, many pose as IRS agents when contacting unsuspecting victims by phone or email. Some of the trickery that they use include:
- Demanding immediate payment of your tax balance over the phone
- Telling you to pay by gift card, wire transfer, or prepaid debit card
- Threatening to send law enforcement to your home or workplace if you do not comply with their demands
- Refusing to tell you how much you owe or why and insisting you pay immediately
- Demanding your credit or debit card numbers over the phone or via email.
The IRS will never contact you by email or phone about your tax balance. Instead, it will send you a letter either by standard or certified U.S. mail. If you have doubts about what you owe, you can check your IRS account by logging onto IRS.gov.
You can also use that website to check the status of your tax refund by clicking on the Where's My Refund link. If it says you are not getting a refund or your return has been filed before you actually file it with a tax preparer or by yourself, you should contact the IRS immediately to report that your identity and personal information may have been stolen.
This year's tax filing season will be different from previous years. Instead of letting you file early or sending out refunds without question, the IRS plans on holding refunds until February 15 or later. This measure is to ensure that people get their money and that they do not become the victims of identity theft.