On the day taxes are due for Americans, April 17, 2012, House Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced bipartisan legislation – The Stopping Tax Offenders and Prosecuting Identity Theft Act (H.R. 4362) – to help stop the growing problem of tax return identity theft and protect tax payers from identity thieves who file tax returns using names of other people to receive their tax refund checks. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), more than 850,000 tax returns and $5.8 billion were associated with tax return identify theft in 2011 alone.
“We have seen countless news stories about how tax refund identity theft is on the rise across the country, particularly in my district in South Florida,” Representative Wasserman Schultz stated in a press release on her website announcing the introduction of H.R. 4362. “To mark tax day today, Chairman Smith and I have introduced legislation that protects Americans and their tax dollars, while discouraging would-be thieves from perpetuating this crime.”
The Stopping Tax Offenders and Prosecuting Identity Theft (STOP IT) Act would increase penalties for tax return identity thieves to help deter this crime and protect victims. The bill would also expand the definition of a victim of identity theft – which occurs when identity thieves use the personally information of other people without their permission to commit fraud or other crimes – to include businesses and charitable organizations, as many of these groups are having identities stolen and used in phishing schemes to extract the sensitive information from unsuspecting taxpayers used in tax return thefts.
Most tax return identity theft victims are unaware identity theft has occurred until they file their taxes, only to learn from the IRS that someone else already filed and claimed their tax return. Tax return identity theft is of particular concern in the states of Florida and Texas, which Wasserman Schultz and Smith represent, since the states rank first and fifth respectively in having the most identity theft complaints in the nation.
As reported previously on the ESR News blog, a recent identity theft crackdown by the IRS and Justice Department targeted 105 People in 23 States as part of a stepped-up effort against tax return identity theft. The nationwide sweep that occurred earlier this year cracked down on suspected identity theft perpetrators and resulted in 939 criminal charges related to identity theft. For more information on tax return identity theft, visit the IRS Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft.
For information about identity theft in general and protecting personal information of consumers, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check AuthoritySM’ and nationwide background screening firm accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – at http://www.ESRcheck.com/ or call ESR 415.898.0044 or toll free at 888.999.4474.
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