Every year, countless fraudulent tax returns are filed so that fraudsters can collect a refund. Most people find out that their identity has been stolen for a fraudulent tax return, when they try to file a return, and are told by the IRS that a return has already been filed using their Social Security number.
If a fraudulent return has been filed in your name:
This does NOT affect any refund due to you; you are still entitled to receive your full refund
This DOES affect your filing process. You will not be able to efile your tax return, instead you will have to complete an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, and mail it to the IRS with a printed and signed copy of your tax return.
Your manually filed return will take longer to process, and so any refund will also take longer.
The best way to prevent fraudulent returns from being filed with your information, is to file EARLY. Most years, you can file as early as February 1st for the preceding year. And the earlier you file, the less chance there is that a fraudster will file a return before you do.
The IRS recommends other steps to take if you think a tax return has been filed fraudulently in your name. Click to download their Identity Theft bulletin to read more.