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Security Updates to Prevent Identity Theft Refund Fraud

08.07.2014

Identity Theft, paper shredder, riskThe IRS continues to ramp-up its work to fight identity theft/refund fraud and recently announced new rules allowing the use of abbreviated (truncated) personal identification numbers and employer identification numbers. Instead of showing a taxpayer's full Social Security number (SSN) or other identification number on certain forms, asterisks or Xs replace the first five digits and only the last four digits appear. The final rules, however, do impose some important limits on the use of truncated taxpayer identification numbers (known as "TTINs").

Note. A TTIN typically appears as XXX-XX-1234 or ***-**-1234.

Identity theft/refund fraud

The IRS has more than 3,000 employees working identity-theft related issues. They are investigating refund fraud and assisting taxpayers - both individuals and businesses - that have been victims of identity theft. The IRS has also upgraded its filters that screen tax returns for indications of refund fraud. Between 2011 and 2014, the IRS reported that it prevented more than $50 billion in fraudulent refunds.

Protecting personal information from disclosure is one important tool in the IRS's toolshed to fight identity theft. IRS data systems contain personal information, such as SSNs, EINs, individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs) and adoption taxpayer identification numbers (ATINs) on millions of taxpayers. To thwart potential identity thieves, the agency launched a pilot program in 2009 to allow the use of TTINs. The goal of the pilot program was to reduce the risk of identity theft that could result from the inclusion of a taxpayer's entire identifying number on a payee statement or other document.

Proposed regulations

The IRS viewed the pilot program as a success and issued proposed regulations in 2013. Under the proposed regulations, TTINs would be available as an alternative to using a taxpayer's SSN, ITIN, or ATIN. The proposed regulations also permitted the use of TTINs to electronic payee statements as well as paper payee statements.

Expanded use

In July, the IRS announced that it was finalizing the proposed TTIN rules. The final rules also expand the use of TTINs to:

  • Employer identification numbers. The final rules allow the use of abbreviated employer identification numbers (EINs) in certain cases.
  • More documents. The final regulations permit the use of TTINs on any federal tax-related payee statement or other document required to be furnished to another person unless specifically prohibited.

Voluntary

The IRS encourages the use of TTINs but did not make use of TTINs mandatory. The IRS also explained that use of a TTIN will not result in any penalty for failure to include a correct taxpayer identifying number on any payee statement or other document.

Limitations

The final regulations (officially known as TD 9765) place some limits on TTINs. A TTIN may not be used on a return filed with the IRS. This includes Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. A TTIN also may not be used if a statute or regulation specifically requires use of an SSN, ITIN, ATIN, or EIN. Additionally, employers cannot use a TTIN on an employee's Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement.

Bell_Robin (3)If you have any questions about TTINs or identity theft/refund fraud, please contact your Brown Smith Wallace Tax Advisor, or Robin Bell, at 314.983.1217 or rbell@bswllc.com.

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