U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) is requesting more information from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about procedures in place to help taxpayers who have been victims of identity theft, and what might be done going forward to proactively alert taxpayers identified as possible victims of identity theft.
Yesterday, across the country, taxpayers attempted to file tax returns with the IRS only to discover that a return had already been filed and a fraudulent refund claimed using their identity. Today, Sen. Warner is seeking assurances that preventive information is readily available to help taxpayers protect their personal information so they can receive their tax refunds in a timely fashion.
“As you know, filing and claiming a false return is shockingly easy, with scammers needing only a Social Security number (SSN) and a name to file and claim a false return. The number of these cases has continued to soar, with nearly 3 million incidents of tax-related identity theft reported in 2013, the most recent year for which this data is publicly available,” Sen. Warner wrote in a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.“While the IRS attempts to identify and prevent as many of these cases as possible, often this fraud is only discovered when the legitimate taxpayer files his or her return and finds that two returns have been filed using the same SSN.”
Data released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has revealed that the IRS issued approximately $5.8 billion in fraudulent refunds during the 2013 filing season.
About 2.9 million incidents of tax-related identity theft occurred in 2013 – up from nearly 1.8 million in 2012, according to a report from the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. As a result, hundreds of thousands of taxpayers experienced significant delays in receiving their refunds. The inspector general’s report noted that such fraud hurts “the ability of innocent taxpayers to file their tax returns and timely receive their tax refunds, often imposing significant financial and emotional hardships.” The inspector general found that, in fiscal year 2013, it took the IRS an average of 278 days to resolve a case of identity theft and issue the correct refund.
“I want to understand what your agency is doing now to help taxpayers and what might be done going forward to be more proactive about helping taxpayers who have been the victims of tax-related identity theft,” Sen. Warner continued, asking a series of ten specific questions related to the agency’s efforts to address and resolve cases of identity theft.
Today’s letter follows on an earlier inquiry from Sen. Warner, who wrote the IRS Commissioner on February 18 pressing the agency on its processes for preventing tax-related identity theft and for notifying taxpayers and law enforcement when the IRS identifies a case of potential fraud.