MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s no secret that South Florida is a hot bed for identity theft, but many people don’t realize that the state also leads the nation when it comes to federal tax return identity theft.
So on Tax Day, April 15th, several congressional representatives met with tax payers, and voters, talk about what they’re doing to combat the problem.
U.S. Representatives Joe Garcia (D, FL) announced at his Miami office that he and and Trey Radel (R, FL) planned to introduce a bipartisan bill which would make it more difficult for identity thieves. The SAFE ID Act would amend the Internal Revenue Code. Instead of an employee’s full social security number on their W-2 form, the IRS would require the use a truncated social security number as the taxpayer’s identification number.
Under present law, employers must include an employee’s complete social security number on mailed W-2 forms.
Garcia said the IRS has already done a trial run of the program.
“We are trying to do small things and one of those small things is taking off the Social Security number from people’s tax returns. It leads to massive fraud and it’s required by law,” said Garcia. “The IRS did a test pilot program in the last few years and it was tremendously successful in reducing fraud. So today on Tax Day, when everybody is thinking about taxes, we wanted to make sure that we introduce this.”
In Ft. Lauderdale, U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz met with taxpayers at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site to talk about a bill she’s filed to combat identity theft. Her bill, the Stopping Tax Offenders and Prosecuting Identity Theft Act (STOP Identity Theft Act), would strengthen penalties for identity thieves, as well as expand the definition of an identity theft victim to include not only individuals, but also businesses and organizations that have had their identities stolen for phishing schemes in an attempt to get sensitive information from consumers.
At the same time, her bill also stresses the need for the Department of Justice to concentrate on areas of the country where the crimes are happening in significant numbers – like in South Florida.
In 2011 alone, a Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration report found that the Internal Revenue Service found 938,664 tax returns involving identity theft and $6.5 billion in fraudulent refunds.