How can identity theft affect my tax account?
Most people think of identity theft as stolen bank account or credit card information. However, identity thieves can also use your personal information to file a tax return in order to obtain a refund or to get a job.
For instance, if someone stole your Social Security number to obtain a job, the employer would report any income earned to the IRS and the Department of Revenue under that Social Security number, making it appear that you did not report all of your income on your tax return.
An identity thief might also use your Social Security number to file a tax return in order to receive a refund. If the thief files the tax return before you do, it will appear to DOR that you already filed and received your refund.
If you receive a notice from DOR that leads you to believe someone may have used your Social Security number fraudulently, contact DOR's Taxpayer Service Division immediately either by phone or in writing as directed in the notice. A DOR examiner will address your concerns.
You should be alerted to possible identity theft if the DOR notice states that:
- More than one tax return for you was filed, or
- DOR records indicate you received wages from an employer that you have never worked for.
Be careful when choosing someone to prepare your income tax returns as tax preparers have access to your personal records. Always choose a professional. DOR cannot recommend a preparer, however the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants, the Massachusetts Society of Enrolled Agents, or the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Tax Practitioners may provide guidance when choosing a paid preparer. The IRS states that taxpayers should always avoid any preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers, or who guarantee results or base fees on a percentage of the amount of the refund.
If you are the sole proprietor of a business, you may want to consider using an Employer Identification number (as opposed to your Social Security number) for business purposes. Visit the IRS website for more information or to apply for an Employer Identification number.
What should I do if I think someone has filed a fraudulent return using my name or Social Security number?
If you think you may have been a victim of identity theft with regard to your state income tax account, call or write the Department's Taxpayer Advocate at 617-626-2280 or email@example.com.
Why does the Department of Revenue need my Social Security number?
Under Massachusetts law, the Department of Revenue has the right to require an individual to furnish his or her Social Security number on a state tax return. This information is mandatory as DOR uses these numbers for taxpayer identification and forms processing. Taxpayer identification numbers are also required to process tax refunds. Although tax return information generally is confidential, DOR may legally disclose return information to other taxing authorities and to those authorized by law.
For more information about the confidentiality of tax information, visit the following website:
- Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 62C, Section 21: Disclosure of tax information
- 830 CMR 62C.21.1: Confidentiality of Tax Information
- 830 CMR 62C.22.1: Exchange of Information with Other Taxing Authorities
Does the Department of Revenue have any procedures to protect my tax information from identity thieves?
Yes. DOR has numerous procedures in place to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of taxpayer information. Moreover, the Department is carefully reviewing all printed and mailed materials to eliminate possible identity theft opportunities. Here are some concrete steps DOR has taken to protect tax information:
- DOR employees legally are barred from discussing a tax return with anyone other than the taxpayer who filed the return, the taxpayer's designated representative, or as otherwise allowed by law. Before any confidential information is released over the telephone, the DOR employee will ask several questions to verify your identity.
- DOR employs encryption technology for all online applications and in barcodes on payment vouchers, bills, etc.
- DOR also has a process to address duplicate returns with the same Social Security number. In this instance, DOR issues notices requesting verification to the parties involved before proceeding with the processing of a return.
- DOR does not use e-mail to initiate contact with taxpayers about issues related to their tax accounts. If you receive an unsolicited e-mail that appears to have originated from DOR and have any questions as to its authenticity, call the Department's Taxpayer Service Division at 617-887-MDOR or toll-free in Massachusetts at 800-392-6089 to determine if DOR is in fact trying to contact you. The e-mail could be part of a phishing scam.
- DOR limits the use of full Social Security numbers on mailed materials.