(WSPA) — If you’re expecting a tax refund but it hasn’t arrived, you may be one of a growing number of taxpayers who have been flagged by the IRS. This time it has nothing to do with getting audited, it’s all to prevent fraud. And if you don’t take an important step, you won’t get your money.
“I got the letter saying they needed to confirm my identity and obviously didn’t believe it,” said Derek Digh, a business owner in Cherryville, North Carolina. It’s a normal reaction. After all, the IRS has been impersonated in so many phishing scams.
“There’s so many scams at this point in time that they see this and they’re scared to pick up the phone and call,” said tax preparer Dan Thomas, an IRS Enrolled Agent. As he explains, the “5071-C” letter really is from the government. Keep in mind, this notice will only come as a letter. It will not come as email or text.
While the letter is not an audit, it does require your immediate attention if you want your tax refund. “Number one, they’re stopping the return. The return will not be processed. They’re looking for verification of their identity to make sure that the tax return that they have in their system is for the person that is filing it,” said Thomas.
And as Derek Digh can attest, be prepared to wait a long time to get through. “I was on the phone for about an hour, hour and a half,” said Digh.
After all, you are dealing with the IRS. And once you do get through, you’ll have to answer questions that dig much deeper than your mother’s maiden name.
“It was really wild, I was in the Marine Corps at one time and I had a house out there that I had purchased and they were asking me questions about that location and I was like wow, they are really digging here,” said Digh.
Digh says there is a way to verify your identity with the IRS online, but he tried it and it didn’t work for him. It instructed him to call instead. Tax preparers can represent you before the IRS. In this situation, however, they can’t make the phone call for you because only the taxpayer knows that private information.
So who is the IRS targeting? Thomas says it seems to be people who have recently had life changes like a move, marriage, divorce, or getting out of jail. “I had gotten divorced so my filings had changed, and then I gotten married again, so it was almost like it didn’t believe that I got married in their system somehow,” said Digh.
But in some cases, Thomas says it’s just random. He says one thing is for certain; based on his clients at Jackson Hewitt, the number of people getting the letter has gone up this year. “They’re sending out more letters than they’ve got people to handle it,” said Thomas.
So charge that cell phone, be prepared for a long call, and print out the last four years of tax returns. “They were asking me, 2015 tax return, go to that page, line item K, what’s in that block,” said Digh.
But above all, don’t ignore that letter from the IRS. Thomas and Digh say once you do get through, you will get return in 3 weeks, but it will likely come by mail, not direct deposit.