AG Dave Yost seeks congressional help so victims of unemployment benefits scams can avoid tax hit

Cleveland.com | Jeremy Pelzer

As state officials report widespread fraud among coronavirus unemployment benefits claims, Attorney General Dave Yost has asked Ohio’s congressional delegation to sponsor legislation ensuring victims don’t have to pay income taxes on claims falsely filed in their name.

Yost’s request, sent Thursday via letter to Ohio’s members of Congress, comes as Lt. Gov. Jon Husted revealed that almost 800,000 of the 1.4 million Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits claims made in Ohio to date have been flagged as potentially fraudulent.

A lot of people, both in Ohio and around the country, are just now finding out that they’ve become the victim of identify theft, as they receive a 1099 tax form from the state for jobless benefits dishonestly filed for using their personal information.

In Yost’s letter, a copy of which was obtained by cleveland.com, the Columbus Republican suggested a number of ways Congress could provide “safe harbor” for victims, including directing the Internal Revenue Service to exclude the amount given in benefits to taxpayers who report fraud unless the state finds that the amount is valid.

Yost also suggested that anyone who asks the IRS for such protection should provide some evidence to back up their fraud claim, such as showing that the payment was sent to an address different from the person’s mailing address, or that the payment went to a bank where the taxpayer conducts no other business.

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