LYNDHURST, Ohio — Robert Schwartz of Lyndurst is afraid to go to his mailbox, worried he might find a huge tax bill he has nothing to do with.
The 80-year-old said he's on a fixed income of just $1,400 a month but said the IRS sent him a notice inaccurately indicating he made more than $289,000 in 2020.
It's a problem Schwartz said he's been dealing with since 2011, with the IRS sending him a tax bill of more than $60,000 in 2018.
“You open the mail and you read you owe $60,000 to the Internal Revenue, and who do you call, you can’t reach anybody," Schwartz said.
“I’m lost in a system that they think I’m making all this money, and one day they’re going to try to collect.”
Schwartz believes his Social Security number is being confused with a tax ID number that belongs to a trucking company in Michigan.
He said each year a representative with the IRS-sponsored Taxpayer Advocate Service helped him straighten out the inaccuracies but this year the incorrect income level placed him well over the limit to receive two COVID-19 federal stimulus checks totaling $2,000.
"I really need that money just to get by," Schwartz said. "At any time Internal Revenue could try to collect taxes against me again, and I’m 80-years-old and I can’t keep doing this.”
News 5 contacted IRS Spokesman Luis Garcia about this case, and while confidentiality wouldn't allow him to discuss the situation, he said the IRS is investigating.
Garcia said taxpayers can file a claim using the Recovery Rebate Credit posted on irs.gov, on a 1040 tax form to try and get the federal stimulus funds they believe they're entitled to.
He also warned about impostors posing as IRS representatives during this tax season. Garcia said there are three things actual IRS employees will never do when contacting a taxpayer.
“We’re never going to threaten you, we’re never going to demand that you pay right away, and we’re never going to say that you have to pay by a particular payment method," Garcia said.
“The IRS is never going to use direct messaging from social media, texts, emails, or anything like that, and ask you for your personal information.”
Garcia said qualifying taxpayers should use IRS Free File resources and pick from several software providers to file their 2020 taxes free of charge.
Cleveland Better Business Bureau President Sue McConnell is urging residents to file their 2020 tax return as soon as possible, and sign-up to have their Social Security numbers protected with an identity protection IRS pin number.
"File as soon as possible to reduce the risk that someone will file using your identity before you do," McConnell said.
“You can get an identity protected pin from the IRS, it’s a 6-digit number, attached to your Social Security number. “So no one can file taxes using your Social Security number unless they have the 6-digit pin."