Each time you claim a dependent on your tax return, the Internal Revenue Service cross-checks their Social Security number to verify that someone else has not also claimed the same person. The IRS has a process for resolving the issue of competing dependent claims.
First, the IRS notifies both filers of the duplicate dependent claim. Then it starts an investigation of both claims. Normally, this investigation takes six weeks to two months.
Duplicate Dependent Claim Notification
When the IRS discovers that more than one tax filer is claiming the same dependent, it sends you a CP87A Notice. This document explains that the IRS found your dependent’s Social Security number on another tax return. When you e-file your return, the IRS website sends you an electronic message.
If you’re sure that you entered your dependent’s Social Security number correctly and you are sure they are a qualifying dependent, you won’t need to do anything unless the IRS asks for additional verification. If you have an idea who the competing claimant might be, you could contact them to resolve the problem in your favor. They will need to amend their tax return and resubmit it without claiming your dependent. During this time, your tax return can’t be processed.
Check for Dependent Identity Theft
It’s not uncommon for anyone to become an identity theft victim these days. Some taxpayers only find out that their identity has been stolen when another filer uses their Social Security number to file a tax return. In other cases, identity thieves steal information about your dependents, then use it to claim them on their fraudulent return.
If you suspect that your dependents are identity theft victims, request a copy of the competing filer’s tax return. You’ll need to file Form 4506-F, Request for a Copy of a Fraudulent Tax Return by mail.
The IRS will send you a transcript that has some identifying information about the fraudulent filer who claimed your dependents. However, for privacy reasons, the IRS blocks out some personal information on the other filer’s transcripts. You will receive information enough information in the transcript to identify your dependents, but you won’t get a full address, phone number or bank account information for the competing filer.
Gather Supporting Documents
In some cases, you need to collect some supporting documents to verify your dependent claim. To respond to an IRS duplicate dependent claim inquiry, you might need your dependent’s birth certificate, medical and school records and proof of legal custody for dependent children. The IRS Form 886-H-DEP lists additional documents that you might need for other qualifying dependents if requested.
File Paper Tax Return
Even if you initially e-filed your return for the tax year, you must file a paper tax return to preserve your right to claim your dependents. Complete your paper tax return as soon as possible after you receive your CP87A Notice and your copy of a fraudulent return that claimed your dependents. Claim your dependents as usual on the paper return. Include any additional documentation listed on your notice with your return.
After you send your paper tax return, expect to wait at least two months for a decision. Unfortunately, your wait could take longer when the IRS needs more information from you. Meanwhile, any refund due to you won’t be paid.
- Internal Revenue Service: What to Do When Someone Fraudulently Claims Your Dependent
- Internal Revenue Service: Understanding Your CP87A Notice
- Internal Revenue Service: Instructions for Requesting Copy of Fraudulent Returns
- Internal Revenue Service: Form 4506-F, Request for a Copy of a Fraudulent Tax Return
- Internal Revenue Service: Form 886-H-DEP
- Internal Revenue Service. "Key IRS Identity Theft Indicators Continue Dramatic Decline in 2017; Security Summit Marks 2017 Progress Against Identity Theft." Accessed Oct. 26, 2020.
- Legal Information Institute. "26 U.S. Code § 152. Dependent Defined." Accessed Oct. 26, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 501 (2109)." Accessed Oct. 26, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "What To Do When Someone Fraudulently Claims Your Dependent." Accessed Oct. 26, 2020.
- National Consumers League. "Tax ID Theft." Accessed Oct. 26, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "Economic Impact Payments. Accessed Oct. 26, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "Notice 1444-A (EN-SP)." Accessed Oct. 26, 2020.
Carol Luther has published feature articles in print magazines, ghostwritten blogs, and produced digital content since 2007. She has published personal finance and small business articles for the Houston Chronicle, Mahalo, the Nest, USA Today, Wahm, and Zacks. Carol has designed, implemented and managed multi-year, multimillion-dollar domestic and international projects services for higher education, nonprofits, and small to medium businesses for more than 20 years.