Taxpayer Identity Theft — Part 7

NOTE: I wrote this post in 2012, so be aware of its age. 


I’ve been telling the story of Wendy Boka and the identity theft nightmare she’s going through with the IRS. Her husband Brian died at age 31 in 2010. Someone stole his identity and filed a fraudulent tax return in his name. We’re still waiting for the IRS to sort this out.

Brian and Wendy were native Iowans. After Brian died, Wendy — a widow at age 29 — moved to Texas. The names are real and are used with Wendy’s permission.

This is the final installment of this series (for now). You can read the other parts of this series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

Here is what I have learned through this process:

  • The IRS is woefully under-equipped to deal with identity theft on tax returns.
  • The departments of the IRS don’t communicate with each other — or with themselves. Things I told the practitioner hotline were lost to the wind, as my conversations with them were not available to the collections department. And even within the collections department, it takes them 9+ weeks to open the mail, and not every call gets logged.
  • I really wish the IRS would tell you whose desk a tax return is sitting on. This is true even in cases not involving identity theft. It’s almost impossible to get answers when you call the IRS, because you — and the IRS rep you talk to when you call — don’t know which IRS employee is actually looking at the return.
  • Congress needs to do something to fix the problem with the Death Master File. It’s ridiculous that the government publishes something that is such a goldmine for identity theft.

I can kind of understand the length of time it takes to resolve these things. I know the IRS is under-staffed, so the long time-frame, while annoying, is not the thing that bothers me the most.

What bothers me the most is the lack of communication. From the start, there has been zero communication from the IRS, other than notices (probably computer-generated) from the collections department. Example: last August, 4 months into this saga,  I found out that the IRS needed Form 14039 and Brian’s death certificate in order to move forward. But I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t called them, because there had been no communication at all from the IRS.

Even now, the only things the IRS has sent Wendy are collection letters, threatening her for “not filing a tax return.” No acknowledgment that she was a victim of identity theft. No communication along the lines of “hey, we received your return and it’s in review” or anything like that. Nothing. Absolutely nothing beyond threatening collection letters.

This wraps up this story … for now. As of today, we still don’t have resolution. As I get updates (and hopefully closure), I will add additional parts. I am supposed to call the IRS in mid-October for another update, so look for a Part 8 then.

And remember to check out Wendy’s website for the perspective of a young widow trying to rebuild her life: