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Efforts to reduce tax refund identity theft increasing

The Internal Revenue Service, state tax authorities and tax preparers and others have been cracking down during the past decade on tax return fraud linked to identity theft. A pilot program that has been tested to reduce the number of fraudulently-filed returns will be expanded in 2017.

The IRS said early this month that actions by the agency and other authorities have reduced fraudulent tax returns that make it into by system by half in the first three-quarters of the year compared to the same period last year. The fraudulent refunds caught totaled $4 billion. They were the result of people stealing someone's personal information and filing a tax return in their name in order to obtain a refund.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said, "Add all this up, it means we're seeing fewer bad returns, fewer bad refunds and fewer taxpayers becoming victims."

Everyone who files their taxes online knows that they need to use a code to file and obtain access to their tax information. That's one way that authorities cut down on instances of fraudulent returns. However, there are other methods that aren't obvious to those filing returns.

Like most types of Internet crime, it may take authorities time to catch up to the technology to effectively deal with it. However, when they do -- especially when it involves the federal government's money -- the penalties to those who are accused of breaking the law can be severe.

Anyone who is accused of any type of Internet crime needs to take the charges seriously. It's essential to seek experienced legal guidance immediately.

Source: CPA Practice Advisor, "New Programs Reduce Tax Fraud," Mark Williams, The Columbus Dispatch-McClatchy, Nov. 11, 2016

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