You are at your desk working on the monthly financial statements when the mailroom drops off a letter from your state Board of Accountancy. You think this is unusual because you paid your dues several months ago, and they shouldn’t be due for two more years. When you open the letter, you find a hearing has been scheduled to investigate a complaint from the IRS that you have been filing fraudulent tax returns. Both the IRS and the State Board of Accountancy want to revoke your license and file criminal charges against. Your first thought is how could this happen! I don’t do taxes, I work in industry! Surprise, you are a victim of professional identity theft. The criminal stole your professional information and used your information to commit their crimes.
As we move into a new tax season CPAs need to be aware of this type of identity theft. As the IRS, state departments of revenue, and Intuit have gotten better at detecting excessive tax returns being filed with Turbo Tax and holding those returns for review the identity thieves have moved on to other tax software platforms. The identity thieves misappropriate a CPAs license number, file for a PTIN number and then use professional tax preparation software to file fraudulent tax returns. Because these fraudulent tax returns appear to have been prepared by a CPA the taxing authorities are less likely to hold the returns for review.
The criminals are aware that a CPA’s license number is a matter of public record. A simple search of the web will give them access to the Board of Accountancy website where the name and license number of all active CPAs is listed. The criminals will select CPAs working in audit, government, or industry and collect the license numbers for these individuals. The fraudsters will then rent a 3 by 5 inch mailbox at a local mailbox store to set up a tax return business in the name of the CPA whose license number they stole. Using the CPAs Name, the new fake company name and address, and the CPA’s license number they then apply for a PTIN number from the IRS. Once they have the PTIN they file fraudulent returns and misappropriate the refunds while circumventing the controls put in place to catch fraudulent tax returns filed with Turbo Tax.
If you are a CPA working in a field other than tax it is important that you maintain vigilance over your professional information. You do not want to become a victim of professional identity theft.