The tax season can be stressful – even if everything goes according to plan – but what happens when you are a victim of tax identity theft?

If your identity is stolen and used for tax-related fraud, you might not receive a tax refund. You are a victim of tax identity theft if someone used your personal information to file a fraudulent federal income tax return. If you suspect that this has happened, here’s what to do.

What is tax identity theft?

Most Americans don’t receive the refund they expect. Instead, they receive a rejection or notice from the IRS telling them they may be the victims of tax-related identity theft because a refund was already issued to their Social Security numbers (SSNs) that year.

Identity thieves can fraudulently receive a tax refund by using stolen SSNs and falsified income information if they have someone else’s SSN.

Since the IRS will only flag the second file, thieves use the information as quickly as possible in order to get a refund. They hope to have the money before you realize anything is amiss. In the meantime, they will have gotten what they were after while you are left with the aftermath.

It is also possible for someone to use your SSN to apply for a job. In this case, the IRS has been notified of the employee’s earnings. In the event you do not report income from the job, the IRS will detect the discrepancy and issue you with a CP01E Notice regarding unreported income.

Other forms of tax fraud

You can also be victimized by tax fraud if you have dependents. Due to the fact that it usually takes longer for families to notice that a child’s personal information has been misused, children’s identities have become a more attractive target for identity thieves.

Criminals can list your children as dependents on their tax returns if their identities have been compromised and they have their Social Security number. The IRS will send you a notice if your return contains duplicate dependents when you file your taxes.

What to do if you’re a victim of tax identity theft

Call the IRS number provided immediately if you receive any of the above notices. Follow the instructions they provide you. Never reply to an email requesting personal information, as this could be a phishing attempt to steal more of your personal information.

If your tax return was rejected because more than one filing was made under your Social Security Number, or if otherwise instructed, print and fill out the IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, and mail it.

For access to information about your tax returns, which would have been used to file the return, you will need your IRS IP Pin. Even if you don’t remember the pin or don’t have access to it, there are ways to recover it.

For further assistance, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490. Throughout the process, you will need to pay your taxes – you may have to do so on paper. Keep copies of all correspondence. 

You are at high risk for identity theft if your identity was stolen and used for tax purposes.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends that you file IRS Form 14039 directly with the IRS and place a fraud alert on your credit report with one of the three major credit bureaus. The alert will be notified to the other two bureaus as well.

Check all of your financial accounts for purchases you didn’t authorize and pull your credit report to help ensure no fraudulent accounts were opened in your name.

I’m a victim. When can I expect to receive my tax refund?

Your tax refund process is slowed down by identity theft. The IRS says most cases are resolved within 120 days, but more complex cases can take 180 days or longer.

Protecting your identity from tax fraud

While you can never be certain that your SSN is completely safe, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk – and avoid tax-related identity theft in the future.

  • File your taxes as early as possible. The criminals are hoping to use your SSN to file taxes before you file your own. Make sure their false return is the one being rejected by getting it done as soon as possible.


  • Be careful about giving away your SSN. Make sure you have another form of ID that is acceptable for the entities that require it, and refrain from carrying around your card. Since your SSN never changes, keeping it safe is essential when it comes to your personal information.


  • Beware of scammers. Using fear tactics, identity thieves can claim to be the IRS through phone calls, texts, or emails to obtain personal information about you – a scam known as phishing. Know the signs to avoid it.


Is your personal information on the dark web? Make sure your identity isn’t at risk!