Nearly a million Ohioans have received the “dreaded letter” after filing their taxes this year.
The Ohio Department of Taxation, in an effort to fight identity fraud, is requiring taxpayers who are due a state tax refund to take a quiz to prove their identity.
To combat the rising number of fraudulent returns, Gudmundson said, the state is abandoning spot checks of random returns and checking each return it gets.
If it flags a return as suspicious, the email said, the department will set aside flagged returns and contact taxpayers with a letter telling them they have to complete a demographic quiz to prove to the state that they’re real.
So what does it take to be flagged as a “suspicious” return? Not much apparently, because Ohio Tax Commissioner Joseph Testa says that HALF of all returns have been flagged as suspicious. Really guys? Half of them? That seems a bit much.
Shortly after filing our taxes online, my wife and I each received the letter. You then have to go to the ODT website and take the quiz. The problem is, that some of the questions are about information that can be decades old. And BOTH spouses must pass a different quiz.
My wife’s quiz asked how much she bought a house for, when she bought it with her ex-husband 16 years ago! Absolutely ridiculous. She didn’t remember that at all. I looked up the property transfers for the house on our county’s website, but they only had records back to 2003. We had to guess.
There are 4 questions, and we failed the quiz. (It doesn’t tell you which question you failed.)
You get two chances to take the quiz, so then we got all new questions. Most of them were relatively easy, but then one asked what our property tax bill was in 2013. Our property tax bill is paid through our mortgage escrow account. I had a pretty good idea of what it was but wanted to look up our records to be sure.
Sure enough, it said we failed again.
The quiz doesn’t tell you this when you are taking it, but you only have 5 minutes to complete it, or you fail automatically. This is incredibly burdensome because many of the questions are ones you need to look up records for, and that can easily take up your 5 minutes.
So we had failed twice. Now what? She had to call and take a quiz orally by phone. And that is only available during working hours of course.
So during work, she called the number and sat on hold for almost 20 minutes. Thankfully, this time she got reasonable questions that she was able to answer without looking up records from the last millennium.
Some of the questions were also a little creepy and personal as well. She was asked multiple questions about her brother.
We were pretty ticked off at the insane questions after failing the online tests and decided to find out if other Ohioans have had this same experience. Sure enough, lots of them have. Check out some of these ridiculous questions as reported by Betty Lin-Fisher of the Akron Beacon-Journal.
Alice and John Walker of Stow both got what she called “the dreaded letter.” Her husband failed twice. One question was about a car that they forgot they had owned. Their son, Shawn, drove it more than 20 years ago.
But the kicker, Alice said, was the set of three questions John was asked about a house in which he lived with Sharon Walker. “We don’t know a Sharon Walker… This is not the name of any relative or friend.” The only thing they could think of was confusion with their son’s name. “We answered the questions honestly, and flunked!”
Alice took the quiz, guessed on some questions and passed. But their joint refund is held up until John can verify his identity. “I am angry that my tax dollars paid the salary of some jerk to come up with these questions,” Alice Walker said.
The Walkers’ daughter had a similar problem. She passed, but her husband flunked. He was asked the name of the server who processed a home loan with his first wife.
“Not the bank, but the server. I have no idea who the server was for our loan from two years ago, much less someone from 15 years ago,”
Lin-Fisher received lots of responses from readers after her first article.
Judy Mickelson of Green was so upset after she failed the quiz that she sent me a long “vent” and ended it with this tongue-in-cheek advice for others:
“My advice to anyone who gets the quiz letter is to sit down and make notes of every place you and your relatives have ever lived, every car you’ve ever owned, every major bank transaction to which you have ever been a party, every job you’ve ever held, every school you and your children attended, etc. After about a week of soul searching, you just might be ready to take the test and pass it. Or will your trick question be ‘What did you have for breakfast on October 3, 1985?’ ”
More from Amber Hunt at Cincinnati.com:
Among the queries posed: How old is Amy Parker (“I don’t know anyone by this name,” White says) and what address did she share with Donald White (“we never shared an address with him”)?
When I log into my bank website from an unknown computer, there is a security step that must be completed first. They can email, phone or text you a secret code to enter. It’s fast and easy. Surely, if this is good enough for the country’s largest banks, it should be good enough for accessing your tax return.
The Ohio Department of Taxation seriously needs to fix this issue for next year. It is a shame that so many taxpayers are being put through this process in order to get their own money back.