Criminals are increasingly filing false tax returns using stolen identity information in order to claim victims’ refunds; in 2012, identify thieves filed nearly 2 million false returns – almost doubling the number from 2011
Bipartisan bill would help crack down on identity thieves and protect victims by focusing law enforcement resources and increasing penalties on perpetrators
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As millions of Americans prepare to file their tax returns this year, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) announced today that their legislation to fight tax identity theft passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, paving the way for a vote in the full Senate. Criminals are increasingly filing false tax returns using stolen identity information in order to illegally claim their victims’ refunds. In 2012, identify thieves filed nearly 2 million false returns – almost doubling the number from 2011. The STOP Identity Theft Act of 2013 would help crack down on identity thieves and protect victims by focusing law enforcement resources and increasing penalties on perpetrators. Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Cases of tax identify theft have surged in recent years, wreaking havoc on peoples’ lives and costing taxpayers billions of dollars,” said Klobuchar. “This bipartisan bill would streamline law enforcement resources to better target and punish the criminals who are stealing peoples’ hard-earned money, and I will keep pushing to make sure it becomes law.”
“I am pleased to work with Senator Klobuchar on this legislation to protect taxpayers from identity theft,” said Sessions. “This legislation will curb illegality, improve the investigative process, and will focus on criminals who steal identities in order to steal a lawful taxpayer’s refund from the IRS.”
In cases of widespread fraud across the country, criminals using stolen information such as Social Security numbers have been electronically filing false tax returns before the legitimate taxpayer files in order to steal the taypayer’s refund. The victims often experience long delays in receiving their rightful refund or never receive it at all.
The STOP Identity Theft Act of 2013 would direct the Department of Justice to focus its resources in areas with a high rate of tax-return identity theft and to coordinate investigations with state and local law enforcement agencies. The bill would increase the maximum jail sentence on perpetrators from 15 to 20 years and expand the definition of a victim of identity theft to allow for prosecution in cases where organizations and businesses—not just individuals—are victims of fraud.