What to do if your federal return is rejected due to a duplicate SSN

April 05, 2019 by Jean Lee Scherkey, EA
Boy standing in front of chalkboard with a finger on his chin

After hours (and maybe even days) of frustrations, lamentations and power ballad renditions, you submit your federal return for efiling, relieved that the torture of filing your tax return is over for another year. A day or two later you check to make sure your return was accepted when suddenly, the room starts spinning, your stomach drops to the floor, and you feel as if you are a passenger on the Wicked Twister roller coaster as it begins its frenzied, furious decent to the ground. Although you may be feeling confused, worried, and downright frustrated, take heart! There are proactive steps you can take to get to the root of what may have happened. It’s natural to quickly assume yours, your spouse’s or dependent’s identity has been stolen, but this may not be the case.
The first thing to do is to check every name and Social Security number listed on the return with what is listed on their Social Security cards. With all the information that is required when filing even the simplest return, it’s easy to mistype a number or two. If the names and Social Security numbers are correct, some deeper detective work will be needed.
If you are married or have a teen or college-aged dependent listed on your return, check to make sure your better half or little rascal hasn’t already filed a return. There are still options if your spouse or dependent filed their own return. Married taxpayers who originally filed separately are permitted to file an amended joint return. If your child or other dependent filed their own return, you might want to discuss with them the pros and cons of amending their return so you may still claim them as your dependent, if they qualify. 

If you still have not uncovered the source of your efile troubles, you may have a true mystery on your hands, but you are in no way stuck! Instead of efiling your return, you will need to submit your return through the mail or another postal service such as UPS or Federal Express. When submitting your return by mail, be sure to sign and date the return. Also, remember to attach any Forms W-2 and 1099 that have withholding. If you use standard mail, please be sure to send your return certified with a return receipt request. This allows you to track the return and ensure it arrived timely. Along with your return, you will also want to submit a completed IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Although the title of this form may sound foreboding, it does not necessarily mean you are a victim of tax-related identity theft. By filling out this form and submitting it with your return, you are alerting the IRS that your return was rejected for efiling because of a duplicate Social Security number.  

Once the IRS receives your return and Form 14039, they will send you an acknowledgment letter. If it turns out another return was already filed that contains one of the Social Security numbers included on your return, the IRS will forward the returns in question to the IRS Identity Theft Victim Assistance (IDTVA) organization. This department will investigate both returns to determine which is the valid one. During this process, it is important to timely respond to any additional correspondence the IRS may send to try to determine which return is accurate. 

While waiting for a response from the IRS, it is a good idea to double check your bank and credit card accounts for any suspicious activity. Additionally, you may want to check your credit with the three main credit bureaus. Everyone is entitled to obtain a free report from each of the three main credit bureaus once a year.  The three main bureaus are Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. To order your free credit reports, please log onto AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. If you discover that you, your spouse or one of your dependents’ identity has been compromised, please contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit by calling 1-800-908-4490. The IRS’s online Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft provides important information about the next steps that should be taken. 

The verification process can take up to 180 days or even longer. During this process, your refund will be frozen. If you are experiencing significant financial hardship due to the freezing of your refund, the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service can help. To contact their office, please call 1-877-777-4778. Sometimes the state tax return will be accepted for efiling even when the federal return has been rejected. If it turns out there is tax-related identity theft on your federal return, it is important to contact the state tax agency where you filed your state return for information on what steps need to be done to secure your state tax account. 

If life is like a box of chocolates, then filing your income tax return is like a trip to an amusement park. When you think you’re in line for the merry-go-round, you may be surprised to find yourself on the tower of doom. However, no matter where the ride takes and shakes you, know there are tools available to make the journey more bearable.  



Jean Lee Scherkey, EA
Learning Content Developer


Jean Lee Scherkey began her career at TaxAudit in 2015, and her current title is Learning Content Developer. She became an Enrolled Agent in 2005. For several years, Jean owned a successful tax practice that specialized in individual, California and trust taxation, and assisting those impacted by tax identity theft. With over fifteen years of varied experience in the field of taxation, Jean has worked at different private tax firms as a Staff Practitioner, Tax Analyst, and Researcher. Before coming to TaxAudit, she worked over two years for TurboTax as an “Ask the Tax Expert.” In addition to her work in TaxAudit’s Learning and Development Department, Jean is actively involved in the company’s ENGAGE Volunteer Program, which provides opportunities for employees to help and serve the local community.  


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