The IRS will immediately begin a pilot program in Florida aimed at fighting identity theft-related tax fraud by improving cooperation between the agency and local law enforcement, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) announced today.
The announcement follows a request by Nelson for the IRS to work more closely with local authorities to combat identity theft-related tax fraud. Nelson first got involved in the issue last year after hearing numerous complaints from taxpayers in Tampa and Orlando who had their tax refunds stolen. Nelson's Finance subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth has held two investigative hearings on the issue, and he has introduced legislation that would strengthen penalties for ID thieves, expand protections for victims, such as a PIN system to safeguard personal identities, and add new protections to prevent future cases of identity theft-related tax fraud, such as a preventing the release of Social Security numbers of deceased persons.
Florida has recently emerged as a hot-spot for identity theft-related tax fraud. A crackdown and investigation by a Tampa police task force last year led to 49 arrests and uncovered as much as $130 million in fraudulent refunds.
"Fraudsters are taking millions from hard-working taxpayers in Florida," Nelson said today. "This program is necessary to help local law enforcement find these slippery and silent crooks."
According to the IRS, the new pilot program will help victims and prevent fraud by assisting "law enforcement in obtaining tax return data vital to their local efforts in investigating and prosecuting specific cases of identity theft."
Under the new program, law enforcement could have victims fill out an IRS disclosure form in suspected cases of identity theft-related tax fraud. This form would allow the IRS to share returns filed under the victim's name with local and state law enforcement. Local law enforcement that's interested in participating should contact the IRS Criminal Investigation field offices in Tampa or Miami.