The Iowa Department of Revenue is once again joining forces with the Internal Revenue Service, other state revenue agencies and the tax filing software industry to combat tax-related identity theft and refund fraud. This coalition, called the "Security Summit," last week announced stronger protections for taxpayers for the upcoming tax filing season that begins Jan. 23.
In turn, IDR is more committed than ever to helping prevent identity theft and tax refund fraud. "The safety of taxpayers' information is our No. 1 priority," says Victoria Daniels, public information officer for IDR. "In previous years, our focus has been on turning refunds around quickly. While we still strive to be efficient, protecting our taxpayers' confidential information is more important than lightning-fast refunds."
Extra time needed to protect your money
Because technology has made it easier and more lucrative for criminals to steal this information, Iowa taxpayers should be aware of some changes for this year's tax filing season:
1. Your refund may take longer. IDR has robust fraud engines built into its processing systems and is dedicating more time to verifying the validity of tax refund claims before issuing refunds. The extra time taken helps ensure the right person gets the right refund and criminals don't pocket Iowa taxpayers' money.
2. EITC refunds will not be paid until early March. Beginning this year, the IRS is required to hold refunds on tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit until mid-February. This change protects taxpayers by giving the IRS more time to detect and prevent fraud. IDR will also take time to apply its own fraud checks to EITC refund claims. As a result, IDR will likely not issue EITC refunds until early March.
3. IDR may send correspondence. Part of IDR's verification process may require examiner outreach. Taxpayers who receive correspondence should contact the IDR employee listed as soon as possible to expedite the process.
4. Provide your driver's license number. Most electronic tax software has an optional field for a taxpayer to provide a driver's license number. Providing that information when filing an electronic return will help expedite IDR's verification process. This option is not available for paper returns.
The Iowa Department of Revenue also reminds taxpayers to protect themselves from identify theft with the following tips:
• Secure your own computer with firewall and anti-virus protections that are always turned on and can automatically update.
• Use strong passwords.
• Encrypt sensitive files, such as tax records, stored on your computer.
• Be wary of tax scams. More information can be found on IDR's website.
Iowa taxpayers can report suspected fraud and identity theft to IDR.
The IRS also has a comprehensive Web page with information and resources for preventing and handling identity theft at gov/individuals/identity-protection.