Two of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's bills moved significantly closer to becoming law when they were passed by the House late last night.
The Stopping Tax Offenders and Prosecuting Identity Theft Act (H.R. 4362) was introduced in April by U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20) and Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (TX-21). The bill is aimed at addressing the problem of tax return identity theft by strengthening criminal penalties and increasing the prosecution rate of tax return identity thieves.
According to the IRS, last year alone more than 850,000 tax returns and $5.8 billion were associated with fraudulent tax refunds involving identity theft. This is of particular concern for Floridians because the state has the most identity theft complaints in the country.
The second bill that now heads to the Senate for a vote is the Child Protection Act of 2012, which increases penalties for the possession of child pornography while also providing additional protections for child victims and witnesses.
The Justice Department estimates that one-third of the world's pedophiles involved in organized pornography rings worldwide live in the U.S. And in a survey of identified offenders, 19 percent had images of children younger than three years old; 39 percent had images of children younger than six years old; and 83 percent had images of children younger than 12 years old.
The bill is also co-sponsored by Chairman Lamar Smith, and is endorsed by the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, National District Attorneys Association, National Sheriffs Association, Fraternal Order of Police, International Association of Chiefs of Police, PROTECT, The National Association to Protect Children, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Men Can Stop Rape, RAINN, Surviving Parents Coalition, National White Collar Crime Center, Futures Without Violence, Jewish Women International, Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, and the California Protective Parents Association.
"Today we moved one step closer to protecting consumers and our children with the passage of these two bills," said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. "We must do more to protect Americans from ever having to go through the headache of tax return identity theft. Chairman Smith and I have introduced this legislation to protect Americans and their tax dollars, while discouraging would-be thieves from perpetuating this crime.
"Our other bill, the Child Protection Act of 2012, is a common-sense bill that provides law enforcement officials with important tools to combat one of the fastest growing crimes in the U.S., child pornography. We must ensure that investigators have every available resource to track down predators and protect our children. This bill ensures that paperwork does not stand in the way of protecting our kids. We look forward to these bills becoming law as soon as possible."