Warning: The IRS never sends emails requesting that you obtain or access your transcripts.
The tax season already has its share of grumbling. Consumers remain worried about identity theft. The IRS says its phone lines will have more staffing but will still be so busy that people should go to www.irs.gov first to try to get answers.
Taxpayers who need a copy of a tax return for a specific tax year will face added hurdles this season when it comes to getting information via the IRS Get Transcript program.
But thanks to some serious ID fraud relating to Get Transcript last year, legitimate taxpayers will face more roadblocks, too.
This year, you won’t be able to quickly print out that old return after viewing it online. Instead, the earlier return will be mailed to the address that the IRS has on record. And it could take five to 10 calendar days to receive that old return.
At some point, tax filers will once again be able to view that previous return online and print it out. But that service won’t be available until new safeguards are tested.
And here’s another warning about scam artists: The IRS states that the IRS never sends emails requesting that you obtain or access your transcripts.
The change is a result of some previous activity by fraudsters. Last June, between mid-February and mid-May 2015 criminals successfully gained access to 100,000 Get Transcript accounts. Crooks had tried to access roughly another 100,000 accounts.
Tax preparers and the IRS are working more diligently together this season to stop fraud early in the season right when it starts.
“We’re going to share that information when we see suspicious returns,” said H&R Block’s Cobb. “We’re being very vigilant on suspicious returns.”
The IRS said many new safeguards are in place but will be invisible to the taxpayer. The idea is to better authenticate the taxpayer’s identity.
One visible change: Taxpayers who use private-sector tax software accounts will see new password protections. New standards require a minimum 8-digit password using a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. Also there will be new security questions, new lockout features and new ways to verify emails.
More than four out of five returns are expected to be filed electronically. But again, the online filing system can be used by scam artists who steal important Social Security data and other numbers from legitimate taxpayers.
The fake IRS phone calls, of course, will continue this tax season. So consumers are warned to watch out and not fall for fraudsters trying to collect money in the name of the IRS.