Capitol Report: Protecting Hardworking Taxpayers
Tax day has come and gone for most, but some taxpayers are still trying to get their returns straight. This year, there has been an astronomical uptick in identity theft used for fraudulent tax returns. When some law-abiding citizens filed their tax returns, they discovered a thief had already used their social security number to file a return. That leaves the taxpayer with months of frustrating calls and letters to the IRS to get it straight. This week I took action to prevent this abuse on hardworking taxpayers.
The Government Accountability Office found that fraudulent tax returns cost more than $5 billion each year. The Southeast Missourian reported, “The number of identity theft/tax return fraud incidents rose nearly 85 percent, to 2.9 million, from 2010 to 2013, according to the most recent IRS statistics report available,” and folks in our area have been feeling that rise. A spokesman for the Cape Girardeau Police Department said, "We've never seen reports like this before."
This week I questioned IRS Commissioner John Koskinen about tax fraud during a Ways and Means subcommittee hearing and shared just how hard our area has been hit by identity theft. I pushed him to provide increased scrutiny to online filings since they are more likely to be fraudulent. Right now online applications are not held to the same standards as those submitted on paper. Online filings and paper filings should have the same level of scrutiny. The IRS must also be more proactive in preventing this identity theft instead of waiting until hardworking Americans have their information stolen.
Thieves are constantly creating new ways to obtain a combination of personal information such as birth dates, social security numbers, and addresses, but there are a few ways you can avoid being victimized. The IRS recommends that you do not carry your social security card with you and only give a business your social security number when they require it. The IRS also recommends that you check your credit report every 12 months for any irregularities. Updating your computer’s software and security programs can help keep your information from falling into the hands of criminals. If you feel like you are at risk for identity theft due to having personal information stolen, please contact the IRS so they can take action to secure your account.
Both the IRS and taxpayers need to be vigilant and proactive in keeping accounts safe as identity theft continues to rise. My commitment is to continue providing oversight to the IRS and fighting to protect taxpayers, because those who work hard and play by the rules deserve our support.