During tax season, some of us are lucky to receive a tax refund, and thieves would love to get their hands on your money. It should be no surprise then that tax identity theft is a huge problem. 1.6 million taxpayers experienced tax identity theft in 2013. That same year, the IRS paid $5.8 billion in stolen tax refunds.
If you discover that your tax refund has been stolen, you should act fast so you can get the refund you’re due as quickly as possible.
- Check your refund status
If you didn’t have any problems filing your taxes, but you feel like you should have received your refund by now, start by checking your refund status. It takes the IRS a lot longer to issue a refund than you might think. In some cases, there may even be a delay, which means you’ll have to wait even longer. Before you waste your time talking with the IRS on the phone, it’s definitely worth making sure that your money is actually missing.
- Report the fraud to the IRS
If after you check your refund status you discover that your money has been stolen, or if you find you can’t submit your taxes at all because someone else beat you to the punch, you should call the IRS immediately.
Experts can walk you through the steps you need to take in order to obtain your refund. Chances are, the IRS representative will ask you to fill out Form 14039, also known as the Identity Theft Affidavit form. If you’re having trouble filing your taxes, you may have to fill them out and mail them in the old fashioned way.
If a thief took off with your federal refund, chances are, he took off with your state refund as well. Unfortunately, this means you need to contact your state’s revenue agency as well.
- Prevent other instances of identity theft
If a thief was smart enough to nab your tax return, there are likely other bits of personal information that he could be using. To keep this from happening, report the theft to the three major credit bureaus and request that a fraud alert be placed on your accounts. You can even freeze your files to prevent creditors from viewing your credit score and report.
It’s also a good idea to change your password on important sites that store your personal information. Check each of your credit accounts to see if fraud as taken place. You may end up needing to speak to your bank or replace your credit cards.
Although you definitely want to get the problem resolved quickly, it’s going to take a while. It could take 180 days or longer, depending on your unique case. But rest assured. The IRS will make sure you get your refund, even if it has already been paid out to a fraudster. It just might take longer than you would like.