Investigators, victims weigh impacts of tax ID fraud, Oso disaster relief

Despite earlier alerts, IRS imposters continue to steal millions by calling taxpayers on the phone and threatening jail time if delinquent taxes are not paid immediately.

Even if you're savvy, you should think of friends, family, neighbors and others in your community who might be fooled by these clever creeps. Spread the word that IRS agents do not call you with threats. They do not use other law enforcement to threaten you. They don't text your cell phone or send unsolicited emails. Bottom line: hang up on all threatening calls, delete all unsolicited emails, and notify the U. S. Treasury Inspector about any scam attempts.

IRS agents are also hearing from more tax-fraud victims in the Seattle Archdiocese data breach revealed in mid-March. Employees and volunteers are discovering almost daily that someone has already filed tax returns in their name. The Archdiocese says it's aware of at least 1,000 tax-ID fraud victims so far. The latest in a serious of regional meetings will be held Monday at 7 p.m. in Burlington. A meeting for employees and volunteers in Pierce County is in the works. In the meantime, tax fraud victims are urged to monitor their mail for unusual deliveries that may be tied to the ID theft. Report anything suspicious to the IRS fraud investigation unit.

Income taxes are also among the concerns for people who lost their homes in the Oso landslide. The IRS is giving mudslide and flood victims until October 15th to file their returns and make tax payments. Some mortgage lenders have announced plans to cancel victims' mortgage debt. Other mortgage lenders are reviewing the ramifications of writing-off mortgage debt for people who've lost their homes. Among the concerns- will the forgiven debt have to be reported as taxable? The federal law that made mortgage debt forgiveness tax exempt expired last year. Another consideration is the extent to which forgiving mortgage or other debt will affect a slide victim's eligibility for federal aid.

The Washington Department of Financial Institutions says it is also reviewing state laws to help slide victims in dealing with lenders. Homeowners have questions about what information they're required to provide to lenders, how to handle situations where a person is missing but not declared deceased, and whether a deceased property owner's heirs are responsible for repaying the outstanding mortgage debts. DFI urges all homeowners with outstanding mortgage loans on property lost in Oso, to contact trained housing counselors at a free state hotline 1-877-894- HOME (4663).