Ohio tweaks questions on tax quiz, adjusts process used to determine additional screenings

Government And Institutions Associated Press

Ohio officials have tweaked questions on a new quiz used by the state to catch phony income-tax returns.

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The move comes after some residents were puzzled by certain questions on the quiz.

Gary Gudmundson, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Taxation, said Monday that the agency is seeking to cut down on obscure questions or those with answers outside the realm of recent memory.

The four multiple-choice questions are being used for the first time this year to make sure a tax return submitted in someone's name is genuine and not an attempt by an identity thief to collect a refund check.

Thousands of Ohioans have been getting asked questions online and over the phone, such as: How old is your grandchild? What brand of car do you have? How long is your mortgage?

That led many to question whether the new identity-confirmation quiz was a scam. It is legit.

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Ohio's tax department received 40,000 calls one recent morning, with many filers worried about being duped by identity thieves.

During a legislative hearing earlier this month, a state lawmaker told Tax Commissioner Joe Testa that his constituents said they weren't prepared for the quiz, with one asked to identify when a son had sold his car.

The identity-verifying questions are derived from information taken from national databases and other sources.

If taxpayers get three out of the four questions correct, their returns are processed. If not, they will need to take another quiz. If they fail again, they must produce a driver's license, birth certificate or other documentation to prove their identity.

Gudmundson said the department has worked to adjust the questions and standards for determining who has to take the quiz. He declined to discuss the changes in detail, saying he did not want to tip off potential fraudsters. But he said the changes in the state's procedures for the additional screening would likely reduce the number of people asked to take the quiz.

As of Feb. 18, about half of the roughly 874,000 returns requesting refunds had been selected for additional screenings, according to the tax department. And about 97 percent of those taking the quiz are passing.

"We do feel that given the success rate that it's working," Gudmundson said of the test.

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Online:

http://www.tax.ohio.gov/