IRS identity theft victim assistance: How it works

We know identity theft can be frustrating and confusing for victims. When it comes to tax-related identity theft, the Internal Revenue Service wants to resolve your case as quickly as possible. The IRS has worked hard to help victims of identity theft by making improvements and shortening the time it takes to resolve these complex situations.

Each taxpayer’s experience will vary, depending on whether you tell us you may be a tax-related identity theft victim, or we tell you we have a suspicious tax return with your name on it. (Please note: We also may not realize you are an identity theft victim until we begin processing the tax return or initiate an audit.)

Here is a general outline of what you can expect.

We tell you we have a suspicious return with your name on it

The IRS Taxpayer Protection Program will identify a suspicious tax return bearing your name and SSN and will send you a notice or letter. The Taxpayer Protection Program proactively identifies and prevents the processing of identity theft tax returns and assists taxpayers whose identities are used to file these returns. There are many reasons why a return may appear to suspicious to us, and we take this precautionary step to help protect you. Here’s what happens in this situation:

  • You may receive a Letter 4883C from the IRS asking you to verify your identity within 30 days.
    • Follow the letter’s instructions to verify your identity.
    • Call the toll-free number provided in the letter. You must have the letter with you when you call the Taxpayer Protection Program.
    • Have a copy of your prior-year tax return, if you filed one, to help verify your identity.
    • Verify your identity. If you are unable to verify your identity with the customer service representative, you may be asked to visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center in person. You should plan on providing picture identification plus the letter and a copy of the affected tax return if you did file one.
    • If you receive similar notices about suspicious returns, you do not need to complete the Form 14039 unless instructed to do so.
  • Once you verify your identity, you can let us know if you filed the tax return in question.
  • If you did not file the tax return in question, we will remove it from your IRS records. Filing a paper tax return may be recommended if you have not yet filed your own tax return.
  • If you did file the tax return in question, we will release that tax return to continue processing, and barring any unforeseen issues (math error, missing forms, or schedules) your refund will be issued once it has finished processing.

How quickly we can work identity theft cases depends upon the volume of work and the complexity of the cases. Once we completely resolve your tax account issues, we will mark your account with an identity theft indicator to help protect your tax account in the future.

Certain tax-related identity theft victims will be placed into the Identity Protection PIN program and annually be issued a new, six-digit IP PIN.

You tell us you may be a victim of tax-related identity theft

Here’s what happens if you learn you are a victim of tax-related identity theft. For example, your e-filed return rejects because of a duplicate tax filing with your Social Security number, and you report the incident to us:

  • You should
  • You'll receive a letter from the IRS acknowledging receipt of your Form 14039
  • Your case will be assigned to our ‘Identity Theft Victim Assistance’ organization where it will be researched and resolved by an employee with specialized identity theft training.
  • The IDTVA organization will work to resolve your identity theft case by:
    • Assessing the scope of the issues and trying to determine if your identity theft issue affects one or more tax years.
    • Addressing all the issues related to the fraudulent return. This includes determining if there are additional victims, who may be unknown to you, listed on the fraudulent return.
    • Researching the case to verify and authenticate all the names, addresses and SSNs are accurate or fraudulent.
    • Conducting a case analysis to determine if all outstanding issues were addressed.
    • Ensuring your tax return is properly processed and if you are due a refund, releasing your refund.
    • Removing the fraudulent return from your tax records.
    • Marking your tax account with an identity theft indicator, which completes our work on your case and helps protect you in the future.
  • You will receive notification that your case has been resolved. This is generally within 120 days, but due to extenuating circumstances caused by the pandemic our identity theft inventories have increased dramatically and on average it is taking us 650 days to resolve identity theft cases. The IRS takes identity theft seriously and is committed to resolving identity theft cases as quickly as possible and are taking steps to reduce this timeframe to 120 days or less.
  • After filing Form 14039 
    • You will be contacted when your case is resolved. 
    • Do not submit duplicate Forms 14039 or 14039-B, nor contact the IRS about the status of your identity theft claim, this will cause delays if duplicate forms are received. 
    • Other than responding to any requests for information promptly, there is no action you need to take until we contact you. 
  • Certain tax-related identity theft victims will be placed into the Identity Protection PIN program and annually be issued a new, six-digit IP PIN.

Are there other steps I should take as a tax-related identity theft victim?

  • Follow Federal Trade Commission recommendations.
  • Check with your state tax agency to see if there are additional steps to take at the state level.
  • Make sure you use good security software and other best practices to help protect your personable identifiable information and stay safe when you “surf” or shop on the internet.
  • Be alert to phishing scams intended to steal your sensitive data.
  • Learn more at Taxes. Security. Together. – an awareness campaign supported by the IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry.

Other resources: