Palos Hills woman says IRS sent tax bills for $50K in railroad retirement income she never earned

ByAnn Pistone and Jason Knowles WLS logo
Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Suburban woman billed for $50K in retirement income she never earned
A Palos Hills woman said the IRS sending her income tax bills on $50,000 she never earned or received. The Taxpayer Advocate Service Office may help.

PALOS HILLS, Ill. (WLS) -- What if you were asked to pay income taxes on nearly $50,000 that you never received?

That's what happened to Olga Rusewicz of south suburban Palos Hills. When she couldn't get help from the IRS, she turned to the ABC7 I-Team.

Rusewicz lives on Social Security and doesn't have to file federal income tax returns. So imagine her shock when she received a bill from the IRS saying she owed taxes on railroad retirement income she never collected.

"I get to the point, it used to be so bad I couldn't even breathe," she said.

She received a surprising letter from the IRS saying she owed them money, thousands of dollars in taxes for nearly $50,000 in a railroad pension income payout which the IRS said she received.

"I said 'What?!' I said, "If I see that money in my bank I will pay gladly, but there's no money in my bank and I never worked for the railroad,'" Rusewicz recounted.

Rusewicz believes she's the victim of tax return scam; that someone filed a return in her name. And now the IRS is seeking more than $3,000 in taxes for that income.

Rusewicz and her brother-in-law said they called and wrote the IRS to clear up the problem, but continue to get billed for that $3,000. They also said the IRS told them the money could eventually be deducted from Rusewicz's Social Security payments.

"They believe the scammer, not me. I'm the real person," she said.

So the I-Team contacted the IRS. They got back to us saying they can't discuss any individual's tax situation, but they did say they would help Rusewicz get in touch with another division of the IRS, one that Rusewicz said they were never told about.

It's called the Taxpayer Advocate Service Office. In an email, an IRS spokesperson said, "The folks who work in the Advocate's Office face situations like this unfortunately all too commonly, and work diligently to resolve them. While it's unclear if the taxpayer was a victim of simple ID theft or some kind of scam, the Advocate's Office can help."

"I am not a scammer," said Rusewicz. "I am stressing out, I have all these health problems and to go through stuff like that!"

Rusewicz and her family have reached out to that division of the IRS and were assigned a caseworker. They should hear back in a few weeks.

If you are the victim of tax return fraud you should also reach out to the Taxpayer Advocate Service Office and place a fraud alert on your credit with the credit bureaus.