IRS ramps up efforts to combat identity, tax refund fraud

IRSThe IRS announced last week that it has initiated approximately 300 new investigations into identity theft and refund fraud ahead of the April 15 tax deadline.

Since January, the IRS’ criminal investigation unit has launched 295 new investigations, pushing the number of active cases under investigation to more than 1,800.

“Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes nationwide, and refund fraud caused by identity theft is one of the biggest challenges facing the IRS,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “The investigative work done by Criminal Investigation is a part of an aggressive effort by the IRS to combat this issue on all fronts. We are making substantial progress in refund fraud protection, and the work by CI highlights the important steps we are taking.”

Since the beginning of the year, efforts by IRS’ criminal investigations unit to stem identity and refund fraud have led to an increased number of recommendations for prosecution, as well as more indictments and sentencing.

The IRS, as part of its campaign, has begun investigating the misuse of electronic filing identification numbers, which are assigned to tax preparers that have completed an e-file application to become an authorized e-file provider.

Tax criminals have increasingly turned to stolen and fraudulently acquired EFINs, leading the IRS to revoke or suspend approximately 400 numbers based on the investigations unit’s recommendations. Over the past few weeks, all of the investigations unit’s 25 field offices have or are in the process of conducting enforcement operations related to refund fraud.

“We remain committed to allocating investigative time and resources to bringing to justice those who steal honest taxpayers’ identities for their own personal gain,” Richard Weber, the chief of the IRS’ criminal investigation unit, said.

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