The Internal Revenue Service is sending letters to verify the identity of taxpayers as part of its effort this tax season to combat the growing problem of identity theft.

The IRS said taxpayers should use a special Identity Verification Service website, idverify.irs.gov, which will provide the fastest, easiest way to complete the task.

In the letter, known as Letter 5071C, the IRS asks taxpayers to verify their identity in order to complete processing of their return if the taxpayer did file it or reject the return if the taxpayer did not file it.

The IRS emphasized that it does not request such information via email, nor will the IRS call a taxpayer directly to ask this information unless the taxpayer receives a letter first. The letter number can be found in the upper corner of the page.

The IRS has been dealing with an increasing wave of tax scams this year in which fraudsters have been leaving messages on taxpayers' phones claiming to be  from the IRS demanding payment, and have been sending phishing emails to taxpayers purporting to come from the IRS ( see Senate Probes Rise in Tax Scams). On Thursday, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen met with leaders of several of the major tax software companies, tax preparation chains, state tax commissioners and other officials to coordinate an approach for dealing with identity theft (see IRS Meets with Tax Community to Address Identity Theft). Koskinen noted that the IRS is sending out more letters to taxpayers this year asking for additional verification when it suspects a filing may be fraudulent.

The letter gives taxpayers two options to contact the IRS and confirm whether or not they filed the return. Taxpayers can use the idverify.irs.gov site or call a toll-free number on the letter. Because of the high-volume on the toll-free numbers, the IRS noted that the IRS-sponsored website, idverify.irs.gov, is the safest, fastest option for taxpayers with web access. Only those taxpayers receiving Letter 5071C should access idverify.irs.gov.

The website will ask a series of questions that only the real taxpayer can answer. Taxpayers should have available their prior year tax return and their current year tax return, if they filed one, including supporting documents, such as Forms W-2 and 1099 and Schedules A and C.

Once the identity is verified, the taxpayers can confirm whether or not they filed the return in question. If they did not file the return, the IRS can take steps at that time to assist them. If they did file the return, it will take approximately six weeks to process it and issue a refund.

Taxpayers also can access idverify.irs.gov through www.IRS.gov by going to the Understanding Your 5071C Letter or the Understanding Your IRS Notice or Letter page. The tool is also available in Spanish. Taxpayers should always be aware of tax scams, efforts to solicit personally identifiable information and IRS impersonations. However, idverify.irs.gov is a secure, IRS-supported site that allows taxpayers to verify their identities quickly and safely.

The IRS noted that IRS.gov is the official IRS website, and taxpayers should always look for a URL ending with “.gov” – not “.com,” “.org,” “.net,” or other nongovernmental URLs.

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