IRS can take 18 months to give refunds to victims of identity theft

Sun Sentinel

Watchdogs are seeking improvements over how the Internal Revenue Service is handling identity theft that robs the U.S. Treasury of money and creates heartaches for victims who can wait 18 months for their refund.

J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, has testified before theU.S. Congressfor the need for reform.

He also is aware that South Florida has been hit hard by identity theft.

George told the Sun Sentinel:

"Tax-related identity theft continues to be a growing concern, despite the IRS's efforts to address this serious problem.  The IRS needs a better process to identify and respond whenever identify-theft tax fraud occurs.  While it has made important strides to prevent the occurrence of identity theft, additional controls are needed.

"We have analyzed recent identity-theft cases and found that the IRS’s process for assisting victims is very lengthy.  A typical path for an identity-theft refund fraud case that is not complex may take as long as 18 months to resolve.   

“Standard IRS processes and organizational structure hinder timely and effective case resolution.  High telephone call demand, limited resources and a growing identity-theft inventory make it difficult for customer-service assisters to prioritize identity-theft cases.  The assisters who work the majority of identity-theft cases also work the IRS's toll-free telephones responding to taxpayer inquiries.  Identity theft cases are not always a priority, even though an untimely case resolution could result in significant taxpayer burden as well as an improper payment.

"This issue must be addressed.”

dgehrke@tribune, 954-356-4404



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