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Such is the very real threat nowadays of identity theft that the ATO has set up a Client Identity Support Centre (find it here) to help taxpayers who have had their identities stolen or misused.
The ATO says it will give every assistance it can, and will provide information and advice to help people re-establish a stolen identity. If taxpayers believe their tax file number (TFN) may have been compromised, they are advised to call the support centre on 1800 467 033 (8am to 6pm Monday to Friday).
Your TFN is used to identify you in your dealings with the ATO. Should you discard or recycle any records or other documents, the ATO’s advice is to destroy or delete your TFN from these documents beforehand, as the TFN and other personal information can be used to lodge tax returns and other tax forms.
A first step may be to check that you haven’t simply temporarily misplaced your TFN, rather than assuming it has been misused. And look out for any indication that suspicious activity may be underway. “For example, let us know if you have received a notice of assessment about a return you haven’t lodged, or if you have included your TFN in a profile you posted online while looking for work,” the ATO says.
If your TFN has been compromised, the first steps the ATO will take will be to re-establish and confirm your identity with you and to check your tax records. Other action taken will depend on your situation and circumstances.
Re-establish and confirm your identity
You may need to re-establish your identity by providing the ATO with proof — this may include details of personal information, such as your date of birth, address, bank account details, or TFN if you have that listed somewhere else. You may also need to provide the Tax Office with information sourced from identification documentation, such as a previous notice of assessment you may have filed away.
“We may ask you for original or certified copies of your identification, depending on your situation,” the ATO said. “If you have set up a secret question and answer with us, then we may ask you for those details as part of this process to re-establish your identity.”
Once original or certified copies of documents have been supplied to the ATO, it will need to confirm the authenticity of your identification documents, which it warns can take a number of weeks.
Check your tax records
Once your personal details have been confirmed, the ATO will check your tax records by looking at:
– TFN declarations
– tax returns (income reported, bank accounts used, tax agents involved and other details)
– Australian business numbers (ABNs) applied for and being used, and
– employer superannuation guarantee payments made.
The revenue collection agency may ask you to confirm the information on file so it can determine which activity is yours, and which are those from another person who may be using your TFN.
The length of the investigation will vary depending on how much information is in your record, whether another person has actually used your TFN or not, and how easy it is to confirm authenticity.
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