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IRS promises to help victims of tax identity theft

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 30. 2015 5:59PM

The IRS has agreed to change its policy and provide the victims of tax fraud with copies of fraudulent tax returns containing their personal information.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., had written to the IRS on May 7, after hearing from several constituents who were victims of tax-related identity theft, including Lori Weeks of Strafford.

Weeks lost her 7-year-old daughter Madison in a fatal auto accident last year, and later discovered that identity thieves had used her daughter's Social Security number to file fraudulent tax returns.

When the IRS refused to share information on the fraudulent returns, Weeks contacted Ayotte's office.

Ayotte wrote to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and urged the agency to provide tax-related identity theft victims with copies of fraudulent returns.

The agency had previously refused to release the information, citing privacy concerns for innocent third parties whose information could also be on the return.

"As a result of your letter, we have decided to change our policy regarding disclosure of fraudulent identity theft returns to victims whose name and SSN the fraudulent return was filed under," wrote Koskinen in a response to Ayotte on Thursday.

"We will put together a procedure that will enable victims to receive, upon request, redacted copies of fraudulent returns filed in their name and Social Security number," he wrote.

Weeks said she is taking a wait-and-see approach in the wake of Koskinen's letter.

"I'm really happy that the IRS has moved forward to make changes that will help families, and I hope that it's not all talk and something to quiet down the masses for a little while," she said. "I hope they are serious and really take to heart the effect this has on families, and that moving forward they make meaningful changes in their policies."

Earlier this month, Ayotte was also among the co-sponsors of the Social Security Identity Defense Act of 2015, which would require the IRS to notify potential victims of identity theft, something the agency has failed to do in the past.

It also requires that the IRS notify law enforcement and that the Social Security Administration notify employers who submit fraudulently used Social Security numbers. The bill adds civil penalties and extends jail time for those who fraudulently use an individual's Social Security number.

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