Understanding Your 5071C Letter: What is a 5071C Letter From The IRS?

Getting a letter in the mail from the IRS is enough to send a shockwave of anxiety through the minds of most taxpayers. Did I file wrong? Do I owe the IRS money? Am I getting audited? What’d I do wrong?! But not all notices mean you did something wrong or owe more money to the IRS. The 5071c letter is one example! In this article, we’re discussing what the 5071c letter is and what you should do if you receive one.

Need answers fast? Use the links below to skip ahead, or read all the way through for a step by step guide to responding to your 5071c letter as well as tips on how to protect yourself from tax-related identity theft.

What is a 5071C Letter From The IRS?

According to the IRS, a 5071c letter is a request to verify your identity when a federal income tax return is filed using your name and taxpayer ID. You’re probably wondering: why would the IRS be asking me if I filed a tax return for myself? The unfortunate reality is, tax-related identity theft is actually one of the most common tax scams. In fact, as of February 28, 2019, the IRS identified and confirmed 3,741 cases just in the months preceding the April 15, 2019 filing deadline of this year.

A 5071c IRS identity verification letter is simply a way for the IRS to confirm that you were actually the one that filed a tax return for yourself, not someone else. This helps them ensure that you can get your tax refund and ensure that you’re abiding by IRS filing standards.

Why would someone else use my name to file a tax return?

All you need to file a tax return is a name, Social Security number, and date of birth. For a criminal, this means easy access to the tax refund you’ve been waiting on all year—or worse, the ability to open new lines of credit under your name, giving them free rein to spend (at your expense).

How do criminals get my tax information?

Unfortunately, seasoned tax-related criminals have many strategies to gain access to taxpayer information. The IRS says online data breaches, phishing email scams, and fake IRS phone calls are just a few common schemes they use to get a hold of sensitive information. (We’ll dive into ways you can protect yourself from these sneaky criminals a little later on in this post).

What do I do if I received Form 5071c from the IRS?

If you’re reading this post, chances are you did, in fact, receive a 5071c letter from the IRS. And yes, Form 5071c is a legitimate IRS form that needs to be addressed ASAP. There are three paths you can take in order to respond to your notice appropriately: respond online, by phone, or with the help of a tax professional. Let’s discuss each to help you find the method that works best for you.

What you’ll need to respond to 5071c

Before you respond to your 5071c notice, you’ll need to gather the following information first:

  • Your Social Security Number (SSN) and date of birth
  • The mobile phone number that’s associated with your name
  • An account number from a line of credit you have opened (ex. credit card, mortgage, student loan)
  • The mailing address and filing status you used on last year’s tax return
  • A copy of your 5071c letter
  • The income tax return for the year shown on the letter, if you filed one

Finally, log into your email account in case the IRS sends you any secure forms to fill out during your correspondence.

Option 1: Respond online

  • Go to the IRS secure Identity Verification Service website
  • Create an account using the following information:
    • Full name
    • Email
    • Date of birth
    • SSN or Tax Identification Number (ITIN)
    • Tax filing status
    • Current address
  • Follow the identity verification steps accordingly, or exit and proceed to option two

Option 2: Respond by phone

  • Call the toll-free IRS Identity Verification Service on your 5071c letter
  • Using the information you have, verify your identity over the phone with the IRS representative

Note: The IRS Identity Verification website and phone number can only be used to resolve tax return identity issues. Neither option will be able to provide you help with the status of your tax refund or other tax questions.

Option 3: Enlist the help of a tax professional

If this process is already enough to give you the heebie jeebies, you may want to contact a tax professional to help you respond to your 5071c letter appropriately. All you need to do is be present on a phone call or in person as you go through the verification process with them.

What if I didn’t get the 5071c letter, but the IRS says my return has already been filed?

If you e-file your taxes, you may see a notice online that says the IRS has rejected your tax return because someone else has already filed one under the same name. In this case, you should file an Identity Theft Affidavit (Form 14039), or contact the IRS at 1-800-908-4490. Though it’s never good news to find out your identity has been stolen, becoming aware of this as soon as you file can help you avoid more serious financial complications and take action immediately.

What if I don’t respond to my 5071c notice?

Whenever you receive any of the IRS notices and letters, you should take action as soon as possible. Depending on the type of notice you receive, you could increase the amount of tax dues you owe, become subject to certain collections measures, or lose out on your tax refund if you choose not to respond to the IRS.

If you do not respond to a 5071c letter, the IRS says the consequences may include:

  • The IRS may be unable to process your return
  • The IRS may not be able to issue you a tax refund

The IRS may not be able to apply overpayments to your estimated taxes for the following year.

What happens next?

You’ve confirmed your identity with the IRS, now what? It depends on whether you actually filed the return in question, or if someone else filed it without your authorization.

If the return was filed by you…

If you did file the tax return mentioned on your 5071c notice and the IRS was able to verify your identity, your return will be processed as normal. The IRS says it takes approximately nine weeks to process your return after your identity has been confirmed. If you’re due a refund, the amount will either be mailed to you or transferred directly into your account, depending on what you selected when you filed.

If the return was fraudulent…

If you did not file the tax return in question, the IRS says you should take the following steps after responding to Form 5071c:

  • File a complaint with the FTC at gov
  • Contact one of the following three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your account
    • Equifax
    • TransUnion
    • Experian
  • Report any unauthorized transactions to your bank and credit card company, and place a fraud alert on your accounts
  • Close any accounts that may have been opened without your authorization

Even if someone else filed a fraudulent tax return under your name, it’s still important to file your taxes if you haven’t already. This process may delay when you get your refund, but following these steps will help you protect your personal information in the future.

Protecting yourself from tax-related identity theft

Now that you know what tax-related identity theft is, and what to do if you become a victim, let’s discuss some preventative measures you can take to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of financial fraud in the future.

  • Passwords: The S. Department of Cyber Infrastructure recommends creating strong passwords for each of your accounts and changing them regularly. Your passwords should not include personal information like your name or birthdate, as they can be easily accessed or guessed.
  • Beware of phishing: Many financial fraudsters gain access to taxpayer information by posing as IRS representatives over the phone or via email, also known as “phishing.” Do not click on links or download attachments from suspicious emails and never release your personal information over email.
  • Keep important documents safe: As we mentioned before, all a criminal needs to steal your identity are a few key pieces of information. With a combination of just one or two of your important documents, you could quickly become a victim of identity theft. Keep your information secure by filing your tax returns, Social Security card, and other items away in a safe place (not in your purse or wallet).


Receiving a notice from the IRS can be intimidating at first, but by following these steps you can resolve your issue, prevent any further threats, and take additional measures to protect your financial and personal information.

Need help addressing an issue with the IRS? Community Tax is here to help! Our team of CPAs, Enrolled Agents, and Tax Practitioners have decades of collective experience working with customers to get higher tax savings, resolve tax issues, and provide tax monitoring and ID protection year-round. Click here to start your free tax consultation today.