PHOENIX – On March 28, the Internal Revenue Service announced a nationwide expansion of their program designed to help law enforcement obtain tax return data vital to their local efforts in investigating and prosecuting specific cases of identity theft.
The expansion covers all 50 states and the District of Columbia and was made effective March 29. More than 1,560 waiver requests from over 100 state and local law enforcement agencies in the nine states previously participating in the pilot program were received by the IRS since the Law Enforcement Assistance Program’s inception.
“The results of the pilot illustrate that this works as an innovative tool for law enforcement to help pursue tough identity theft situations,” IRS Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller said. “This program is an effective way for law enforcement to work with the IRS to pursue identity thieves and protect taxpayers. Expanding the program and making it permanent on a nationwide basis makes sense for victims as well as law enforcement and tax administration.”
Law enforcement agencies interested in working with the IRS should contact the nearest IRS Criminal Investigation field office.
The IRS also announced on March 28 continued progress on several areas involving identity theft, including resolution of more victim cases and continued emphasis on criminal investigations.
Since the start of 2013, the IRS has worked with victims to resolve and close more than 200,000 cases. This is in addition to the expanded Identity Protection PIN pilot, an initiative to protect victims with previously confirmed cases of identity theft by creating an additional layer of security on these accounts. The IRS has issued more than 770,000 IP PINs to identity theft victims at the start of this tax filing season.
There have been more than 670 criminal identity theft investigations opened since October 2012. The criminals sentenced in these cases are spending an average of four years in custody, with sentences as long as 20 years.
“The IRS and its law enforcement partners at the federal, state and local level are going after the perpetrators of these crimes, and people are going to jail for a long time as a result,” Miller said.
In January, the IRS also conducted a coordinated and highly successful identity theft enforcement sweep. The coast-to-coast effort against identity theft suspects led to 734 enforcement actions, including 298 indictments, informations, complaints and arrests. The effort comes on top of a growing identity theft effort that led to 2,400 other enforcement actions against identity thieves during fiscal year 2012.
The IRS has a comprehensive and aggressive identity theft strategy employing a three-pronged effort focusing on fraud prevention, early detection and victim assistance. The agency is continually reviewing processes and policies to ensure that they are doing everything possible to minimize identity theft incidents, to help those victimized by it and to investigate those who are committing the crimes.
In fiscal year 2012, the IRS prevented the issuance of more than $20 billion in fraudulent refunds, up from $14 billion the year before. The IRS stopped 5 million suspicious returns in 2012, up from 3 million suspicious returns stopped in 2011.
“The IRS continues to aggressively work identity theft issues on multiple fronts, focusing on helping victims of this terrible crime and pursuing the perpetrators across the nation,” Miller said. “The pilot expansion will help these efforts.”
Submitted by: Internal Revenue Service