According to a recently released report by the Inspector General for Tax Administration, the IRS is falling behind on a problem that has increased almost 600 percent in the past five years, controlling the use of stolen identities to file tax returns.
Most of the identity theft referred to in this report is when someone’s personal information is stolen to maintain employment.
Here is the synopsis from the report:
The IRS has not placed sufficient emphasis on employment-related and tax fraud identity theft strategies. Specifically, its prevention strategy does not include pursuing individuals using another personâ€™s identity, unless their cases directly relate to a substantive tax or conspiracy violation. IRS policy is that the actual crime of identity theft will only be investigated by the Criminal Investigation Division if it is committed in conjunction with other criminal offenses having a large tax effect.
Here is how the Inspector General came up with these numbers:
During Calendar Years 2005 and 2006, the Federal Trade Commission received 92,570 taxpayer complaints related to employment-related and tax fraud identity theft. Due to the lack of IRS information related to identity theft, it is not clear whether the Criminal Investigation Division evaluated or investigated any of these complaints. According to the IRS, the Criminal Investigation Division does not use the Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Clearinghouse data, and any identity theft prosecution recommendations would have been developed from other
The report goes on to say that in past two years out of the 92,570 cases reported only about 100 were prosecuted.
Another interesting aspect of the report is that only no match cases (where a name and SSN do not match) are reported to the employer:
Employers are notified of mismatches between names and Social Security Numbers. However, if both a taxpayerâ€™s name and Social Security Number are used by another person, employers are not notified and no further action is taken to stop the continued unlawful use of the identity.
This ties in with the no match social security number legislation that the Department of Homeland Security is trying to enact. As of right now, anyone can use someone else’s or even a made up social security number and remain employed. There are few to no consequences for the identity thief, or the employer, who chooses to look the other way.
The new law would force employers to take action, but has been held up in Federal court at the behest of several civil liberties groups. Ironically, many of the cases I’ve read about involved a citizen of Hispanic American heritiage having their identity stolen.
In August of last year, I wrote about a financial crimes detective, Adrian Flores having his identity stolen. Before clearing his good name, Detective Flores went through a lot of pain and suffering when the IRS came after him for back taxes. He also had to deal with a slew of collection agencies coming after him for unpaid debts using his stolen identity.
Sadly enough, it appears that the groups blocking this legislation don’t take the victims rights into consideration (my opinion). I’m all for protecting individual rights, but we need to consider the people getting their identities stolen, also.
Who is protecting their civil liberties?
Most Americans have nothing against hard working immigrants, but many of us have become weary with all the crime that hides itself in it’s mass. There isn’t going to be an easy answer to this issue, but we need to remove the factors that enable crime to camouflage itself within the problem, too easily.
Full report by the Inspector General for Tax Administration, here.
Latest press release from DHS about the impending (highly controversial) law, here.