IRS Expands Identity Theft Law Enforcement Assistance Program

By Sally P. Schreiber, J.D.

From the IRS

The IRS has expanded its Law Enforcement Assistance Program on identity theft to all 50 states and the District of Columbia (IR-2013-34). Under the program, state and local law enforcement officials with evidence of identity theft involving fraudulently filed tax returns can obtain tax return information of identity theft victims from the IRS to aid in their enforcement efforts.

As under the pilot program, state and local law enforcement officials can receive permission for tax return information disclosure from the identity theft victim by having the victim complete a special IRS disclosure form so the IRS can provide law enforcement with the fraudulently filed tax return. Law enforcement representatives can then submit this consent to the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, along with a copy of the police report. The IRS will assist law enforcement in locating identity theft victims and obtaining their consent on the special IRS disclosure form.

The program was rolled out in April 2012 as a pilot program, beginning in Florida, the state with the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft complaints (see Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Rep’t No. 2012-40-050). The program was expanded to eight more states in October 2012 (Alabama, California, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas). According to Acting Commissioner Steven Miller, the IRS has been aggressively working on identity theft issues on multiple fronts. “The pilot expansion will help these efforts,” Miller said. Law enforcement interested in working with the IRS should contact a local IRS Criminal Investigation field office.

The IRS also touted its success in other identity theft areas, pointing to its stopping $20 billion in fraudulent refunds and 5 million suspicious returns in 2012, up from $14 billion and 3 million in 2011. It has resolved more than 200,000 identity theft cases since the beginning of 2013 and issued 770,000 identity protection personal identification numbers (IP PINs), a PIN it issues to help protect taxpayers who have had their identities stolen.

Since October, the IRS has pursued more than 670 criminal identity theft investigations, and convicted offenders are receiving sentences averaging four and reaching up to 20 years. In January, the IRS participated in a coast-to-coast identity theft enforcement sweep that resulted in 298 indictments, informations, complaints, and arrests.

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