Can I get information about this ACH trace number?
October 8, 2021 5:21 PM   Subscribe

The (United States) IRS sent me a letter saying my direct debit payment for 2020 didn't go through. I don't owe them money, and I never tried to make such a payment. Naturally I'm concerned with ... who DID? The IRS phone support I reached can't give me any info and won't validate my identity because (as far as I can tell) ... it doesn't match the information on their version of my 2020 return! Ugh. Their letter includes an ACH trace number; can I at least figure out which bank this is from?

The letter says, "We couldn't process your Electronic Funds Withdrawal (direct debit) payment for the reason cited. Contact your financial institution if more information is needed as to why they couldn't process your payment."
Reason for reject/return: RETURN: INVALID ACCOUNT NUMBER STRUCTURE

Reject/return date: 9/21/2021

Payment amount: [thousands of dollars that I definitely do not owe]

ACH trace number: 200166342808914

Tax period: 202012

I guess I could try contacting all three of the banks where I have an account, but assuming they all will tell me "no clue, that's not our transaction", what can I even do now?

The IRS customer service person basically threw up her hands and told me that, due to my answers not matching their records _for tax year 2020_ -- the year for which an apparently really wrong/probably fraudulent return was filed, so OF COURSE MY ANSWERS DON'T MATCH -- she was locked out of my account.

She also didn't know what an ACH trace number was, so apparently this whole phone call was pretty much doomed from the start.

What do I do?

I think the IRS now thinks I owe them a lot of money, and that I need to find another way to make a payment.

Someone filed a fraudulent return for my partner a few years ago, and we ended up going to the local IRS office (now closed) to clear that up; he now has additional security measures for every return. I get that this is kind of a deal that needs addressing.

Is there another number/office I should call/contact? My contact today was through 800-829-1040 + 5-6 phone menu choices ending with "other".


I found the Identity Theft Affidavit form, but am not sure this is the right move right now. Even if it is, since my letter doesn't include a FAX number, they seem to want me to mail it in, and I'd like to actually talk to someone if possible.


I should probably go ahead and file my 2020 return. Sorry, world, for not doing it already, I guess.


I'd rather not go into details about why I didn't file a return [yet] for 2020, just... I didn't, and I didn't legally have to. I probably should have, though, because I believe the IRS actually owes _me_ money.
posted by amtho to Law & Government (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
So, my first thought based upon the fact that you KNOW you didn't try to pay them, is that this is a scam of some sort. Tread carefully.
posted by China Grover at 6:17 PM on October 8, 2021 [9 favorites]


If it were me, I would do three things. One, freeze all my credit. Two, call the fraud department of the IRS. Three, call your local congressperson's office and explain the situation and ask for their help/advice.
posted by AugustWest at 6:26 PM on October 8, 2021 [7 favorites]


The (United States) IRS sent me a letter saying my direct debit payment for 2020 didn't go through.

First, I would try to be absolutely sure that this isn't some other scam and that the letter really comes from the IRS; it *sounds* from the conversation on the phone like something is going on, but that conversation sounds confusing to me so I might basically try to call the same number again and get a different person, in case you can get someone more helpful. You may also be able to get into one of the online systems where you can check your refund status and verify that one was submitted -- it doesn't look like that needs return-specific information.

That aside, I've had some version of this happen to me. The following is based on just my experience and reading a lot about this at the time, so take that for what it's worth:

I found the Identity Theft Affidavit form, but am not sure this is the right move right now. Even if it is, since my letter doesn't include a FAX number, they seem to want me to mail it in, and I'd like to actually talk to someone if possible.

You almost certainly want to submit this form as soon as you can, it won't hurt, and in my experience it will open the path towards resolving this that can't really happen over the phone. If you are going to file for 2020, you should probably also do that asap (which will also trigger fraud investigation I believe) and you can send this form in at the same time. (I believe I even sent mine in in the same envelope, though you should double check that that's the right thing to do.) File state returns asap also. Like what happened to your partner, I believe you will need to go have an interview with an actual IRS person and establish your identity before you can make real progress. The process for resolving this in my case was smooth but not short, IIRC it took months to get an appointment, and this was well pre-pandemic. Absolutely nothing bad happened while waiting for it to get sorted out.

You should definitely freeze your credit, and if you can try to figure out how this happened; doing the scams involved in this requires a somewhat above-normal level of info about you for hackers to have, e.g. more than just SSN -- the ones I know of are hard to pull off without address and even previous return info. (Though I should say, from your description I can't immediately identify the scam.) In my case, it eventually emerged that one of my employer's W2 processing contractors got hacked -- pretty non-trivial. I've had a PIN on my federal tax filing ever since, I think I'll have it forever. To be honest, after this I also file a lot more promptly because you're on better footing in a fraud situation if your real return got there first, and that also completely prevents someone else with e-filing with your info.

Is there another number/office I should call/contact?

https://www.irs.gov/faqs/irs-procedures/reporting-identity-theft gives a different number that might be specific to identity theft, I'd try that. (Though IIRC they are basically going to say to fill out the identity theft affidavit. But even making the call will probably leave a record that will help push this along.)
posted by advil at 8:34 PM on October 8, 2021 [1 favorite]


This letter should be authenticated. Can you see which office mailed it to you? It may have been Austin Texas, Atlanta Georgia, Ogden Utah or Kansas City Missouri. There may have been an attempt to pay YOU through ACH deposit in accordance with the rebate recovery credit or advanved child tax credit and they used the bank info of your latest return filed. The letter should have an 800 number to call but be careful. DO NOT GIVE ANY PERSONAL INFO OR BANKING INFO OVER THE PHONE UNTIL YOU CAN VERIFY THE IDENTITY OF THE RECEIVER. if you'd like you can black out your info and take a pic of the letter and send it to me I can let you know if it's authentic. A payment transaction that defaulted would come most likely from collections and an attempt to pay you that got kicked out would simply resend the funds by paper check.
posted by The_imp_inimpossible at 8:40 PM on October 8, 2021 [2 favorites]


"Electronic File Transfers (EFT) in the USA require ACH (Automated Clearing House) routing numbers. You can manually look up registered routing numbers on a web site hosted by the Federal Reserve Banks (FRB)."
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:48 PM on October 8, 2021


[QUOTE]Is there another number/office I should call/contact? My contact today was through 800-829-1040 + 5-6 phone menu choices ending with "other".[/QUOTE]
this is the correct number. Pull the records from your 2020 return, the bank records of where your last refund went. Look on the letter for a 14 digit number that begins with 43, 36 or 09 the last digit would be 0 that will help the agent find the document that letter originated from then see if there is a mix up with your records and theirs
posted by The_imp_inimpossible at 8:51 PM on October 8, 2021


Response by poster: Thanks for the info and help!

- In the header with my name and address, the first line is the closest thing I can find to the 14 digit number you mention, The_imp: "P: 0 T:19 00002305 ER1V-000002960"

- There's only an "ACH trace number", not a routing number. I found the FRB site earlier and tried entering the trace number, and the first 8 digits of the trace number, but got an error message.


It seems like a real letter from the IRS, although I was wary enough to do a basic check:

- I Googled the phone number on the letter (888-353-4537); Google found it listed on the IRS site for tax questions. I went back through the IRS home page to find the number on their site again, then called that. The person who answered gave me the 800-829-1040 number.

- Unfortunately I already discarded the envelope it came in, and I can't find an indication of the origin point.

- There is a header with the field "Letter 4870". Also, in two other places, "Letter 4870 (Rev. 1-2016)

- It resembles this sample letter, but no return address is given in the IRS header - just the first two lines, "Department of Treasury / Internal Revenue Service". However, that version seems to be from 2014, and it seems this is a revision from 2016.

- Actually, the logo typeface is verry slightly different.

- There is a payment voucher enclosed on a separate piece of paper

- The payment voucher has my correct SSN on it

- The address for mailing payments is the same one in the sample letter linked above: P O Box 1211, Charlotte, NC 28201-1211
posted by amtho at 10:26 PM on October 8, 2021


Honestly, sounds like a scam where they gave correct phone numbers but an incorrect PO box, but have good info on you.

I'd contact IRS fraud.

Definitely don't pay anything. The IRS will definitely be in touch in a more robust way if you are overdue.
posted by bbqturtle at 4:30 AM on October 9, 2021


Response by poster: The PO box does match the sample letter.
posted by amtho at 7:29 AM on October 9, 2021


+1 for contacting your Congressperson. We had a tax payment issue last year, different situation than yours, but we learned they have someone in the Congressional office who basically deals with IRS stuff for constituents full time. She was amazing. Broke through six months of deadlock and got our issue resolved in a matter of a few days.

Good luck sorting out your mysterious payment issue. I just got a new Twilight Zone IRS letter the other day that said, "We think you sent something to us, we don't know what it is, we don't know what to do with it, and we'll either figure it out or we won't." The thing in question was an estimated payment for 2021, very clearly labeled in the way the IRS says they want.

I don't love that the IRS seems to be this broken. It's no good for any of us.

Side note on making payments to the IRS these days: After all the horror stories last year of direct debit payments getting double withdrawn and stuff like that, I started making payments with cashier's check from my credit union, sent to the IRS via Priority Mail. I photograph the contents of the envelope before I send it. Then I scan the Priority Mail receipt and save a PDF of the delivery tracking data from the USPS Web site, along with the photo. I was also able to get the credit union to send me a PDF of their confirmation that the IRS had cashed the check, which they were happy to share with me when I asked for it. This whole process felt a little extra to me, until I sent all this electronic documentation to the Congressional office, and they confirmed back that what I gave them contained everything they needed to show a clean paper trail.
posted by sockshaveholes at 10:30 AM on October 9, 2021 [3 favorites]



Honestly, sounds like a scam where they gave correct phone numbers but an incorrect PO box, but have good info on you.

I'd contact IRS fraud.

Definitely don't pay anything. The IRS will definitely be in touch in a more robust way if you are overdue.


A legitimate IRS help-line staffer would know what an ACH number is.
posted by jgirl at 10:30 AM on October 9, 2021 [2 favorites]


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