Be careful out there.
Scam artists are paying people’s taxes, or something. Good thing the IRS is on the case.
Here’s how I found out about this dastardly attack on my personal freedom.
It’s never a good day to pull a letter from the IRS out of the mailbox, not that it ever happened to me before this month. I’m too small a fish to have attracted much attention from the tax collectors, and I’ve always ponied up what I owe by the designated deadlines, so a letter with an IRS return address tucked in between the Christmas catalogs was a shocking sight this pandemic November. I ripped it open and stood there on the front porch reading and rereading it, bumfuzzled, trying to figure out what the heck they wanted me to do. And why.
“Dear TAXPAYER (They always use uppercase and no punctuation for that salutation) “We received an income tax return, form 1040, for the tax year above using your name and Social Security number… To protect you from identity theft, we need to verify your identity before we process the income tax return, issue a refund or apply the overpayment to next year’s estimated tax.” The letter here.
So, they are suspicious because I filed an income tax return?
The letter repeats the instructions in Spanish, then tells me, in English and in Español, what I must do if I am the victim of some joker who evidently attached a check for $500-some bucks to the return they filled out in my name – which is to call an 800 number and report that an identity thief has paid my taxes. It also tells me what to do if I did file, which is to gather up a bunch of documents, including my last two years’ worth of tax returns, and call the 800 number.
Which a human never answers.
The automated voice reads a long list of instructions and then says they are too busy to answer and to call back between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. I call two or three more times with the same result.
The letter says I have 30 days from Nov. 4 to get this done, otherwise I’m going to be called in to an IRS office to show them my documentation and prove my identity, which is something I’m going to have trouble accomplishing, since they do not encourage people to come in because they don’t want to catch the ’Rona.
And speaking of COVID-19, their website features an apology for their perceived inefficiency, explaining that it’s taking them longer to do stuff like process paper tax returns and tax return-related correspondence.
“We are processing all mail in the order we received it. Do not file a second tax return or call the IRS.”
So, consider this a warning: The IRS thinks there’s somebody out there paying our taxes for us. It’s a Thanksgiving miracle.
God bless us every one.
Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for KnoxTNToday.com.