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Taxes and Identity Theft: Status of IRS Initiatives to Help Victimized Taxpayers

GAO-11-674T Published: May 25, 2011. Publicly Released: May 25, 2011.
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Identity theft is a serious and growing problem in the United States. Taxpayers are harmed when identity thieves file fraudulent tax documents using stolen names and Social Security numbers. In 2010 alone, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) identified over 245,000 identity theft incidents that affected the tax system. The hundreds of thousands of taxpayers with tax problems caused by identity theft represent a small percentage of the expected 140 million individual returns filed, but for those affected, the problems can be quite serious. GAO was asked to describe, among other things, (1) when IRS detects identity theft based refund and employment fraud, (2) the steps IRS has taken to resolve, detect, and prevent innocent taxpayers' identity theft related problems, and (3) constraints that hinder IRS's ability to address these issues. GAO's testimony is based on its previous work on identity theft. GAO updated its analysis by examining data on identity theft cases and interviewing IRS officials. GAO makes no new recommendations but reports on IRS's efforts to address GAO's earlier recommendation that IRS develop performance measures and collect data suitable for assessing the effectiveness of its identity theft initiatives. IRS agreed with and implemented GAO's earlier recommendation.

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AccountsConfidential informationCrime preventionCrime victimsData collectionFraudIdentity theftInformation disclosureInformation leakingInformation managementInformation securityPerformance measuresRisk assessmentRisk factorsRisk managementSocial security numberStrategic information systems planningStrategic planningSystems designTax administrationTax administration systemsTax information confidentialityTax refundsTax returnsTaxpayersVoluntary complianceWhite collar crimePolicies and procedures