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Protecting citizens from tax fraud 

To the Editor:

In early July 2015, Michael filed his taxes with the Internal Revenue Service. Shortly after, the IRS notified Michael that he had been the victim of tax return fraud and they had mistakenly sent his return to a criminal. Having previously been a victim of tax return fraud, Michael had taken an extra step and requested an identity protection personal identification number or an “IP PIN” from the IRS to protect himself from fraudsters. Because of this individualized PIN, the IRS was able to identify the fraud and resolve the case, and Michael eventually got his return, but many taxpayers are not so lucky.

Last year, nearly 90 percent of IRS constituent casework that came through my congressional office were cases of income tax fraud. While this number may seem high, the Federal Trade Commission recently ranked the St. Louis metropolitan area as having the highest rate of identity theft on federal income tax returns in the nation.

Most victims of identity theft wait months or even the entire year to receive their refund. We need to prevent this crime before it ever happens.

The IRS has the necessary tools to help. With every case that comes into my office, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated that the IRS is so careless with taxpayer assistance and protection. There is a solution, however, and it’s increasing the availability of IP PINs for all Americans. I introduced H.R. 4459, the Taxpayer Identity Theft Protection Act, to make this proven tool available to more taxpayers and help stop this fraud epidemic.

My legislation would require the IRS to issue an IP PIN to any individual who requests one. An IP PIN will add another level of protection and increased peace of mind as you send your personal and financial information to the IRS each year.

The cost of implementing H.R. 4459 is low and return on investment is high. The IRS itself estimated in their Taxpayer Advocate Annual Report to Congress that the cost of this program would boil down to just $1 a month over the three-year period, not at your expense. More importantly, the report also highlights that for every dollar spent on issuing IP PINs in 2014, an estimated $5.36 in fraudulent charges was saved.

A new report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found numerous deficiencies in the IRS’ security program that blatantly expose taxpayers’ personal and financial data. The GAO issued 43 detailed recommendations for the IRS to patch these vulnerabilities and protect taxpayers. Each recommendation helps secure the IRS website and system, and protects taxpayer data.

Rep. Ann Wagner

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