NOTE: I wrote this post in 2013, 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.
The IRS still has not processed Brian and Wendy’s final joint tax return for 2010.
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.
A fellow practitioner asked me the following question, regarding identity theft: if a client is the victim of identity theft, and the practitioner has power of attorney, is it okay for the practitioner to pull a transcript on the fraudulent return that was filed in our client’s name?
For example, would it be okay for me to use IRS e-services to pull a transcript of the fraudulent return filed in Brian’s name?
The thought of doing this has crossed my mind, but honestly, I’m too scared to try doing it. And my gut tells me that it’s probably not okay — and I’m not certain that the e-services system would even have the fraudulent return available to pull, anyway.
In December 2012, Wendy received a letter from the IRS that said the IRS had “recently became aware” of the identity theft issue on her and Brian’s 2010 tax return (“recently,” as defined by the IRS, apparently means “20 months later”). The last line of the letter says the following:
Disclosure laws prohibit us from revealing information about any individual using your SSN….
I’m not sure what information could be gleaned from the fraudulent return anyway. An address, maybe? Or a bank account number?
But if a thief puts their address or bank account info on the fraudulent return, wouldn’t the IRS be able to quickly catch the thief? (Okay, since the IRS can’t even mail checks to the right address, maybe I’m giving them too much credit.)
But seriously, if a thief is telegraphing their location and bank information, the IRS shouldn’t have such an awful time handling these cases. Should they? So again, I’m not sure that the fraudulent return would really contain anything useful or not.
Wendy, an attorney by training, has wanted to know if she’ll get the chance to confront the creep who stole Brian’s identity. It’s unlikely that she will. What I’ve heard informally from ex-IRS employees is, it’s doubtful the IRS will ever even catch the creep, let alone Wendy being told who it is.
So that leads us back to the question posed in the opening paragraph. Is it okay for a practitioner to pull a transcript of the “false” tax return?
My initial reaction is to say no, but I’m curious to know what other people think.