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IRS Should Improve ID Theft Victim Assistance: TIGTA

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

08 December 2015

Improvements are needed for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to better assist victims of identity theft (IDT) in the United States, according to a new report released by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

As part of the agency's strategy to reduce taxpayer burden caused by IDT, the IRS formed the Identity Protection Specialized Unit (IPSU) in October 2008. The IPSU is a dedicated unit organized for the purpose of enabling IDT victims to get their questions answered and obtain assistance in getting their issues resolved quickly and effectively.

In May 2012, TIGTA reported that the IPSU was not achieving its original purpose of providing each IDT victim with a single assistor to answer questions and resolve his or her issues. TIGTA initiated its latest audit to follow up on the current effectiveness of the IPSU in meeting its goals.

However, TIGTA found that the IRS no longer provides the majority of IDT victims with an IPSU single point of contact because, according to the IRS, budgetary constraints prevent the IRS from doing so. In addition, the IRS did not always issue required acknowledgement and case status letters to taxpayers or effectively conduct research to identify and assist taxpayers who submit IDT claim documentation without their Social Security Number.

"The IRS should provide quality customer service to all taxpayers, including those who have been victimized by identity thieves, and this service should include mailing timely acknowledgement and case status letters," said Russell George, the TIGTA.

Concern has risen this year about the extent of tax fraud linked to IDT in the United States. The problem is being seen as particularly pressing after the IRS admitted that the personal information of 334,000 taxpayers was compromised during the data breach in May this year.

In August, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen had promised to investigate the agency's handling of fraudulent tax returns. As part of that process, the IRS introduced a procedure last month through which IDT victims can now obtain copies of the returns filed in their names, so as to assess the extent of damage to their privacy and decide what steps to take.

TAGS: compliance | tax | tax compliance | law | Internal Revenue Service (IRS) | tax authority | United States | Tax

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