Senator Nelson files bill to combat tax-refund thieves
By Nina Lincoff, South Florida Business Journal
Mar 10, 2017
Senator Bill Nelson, (D-FL), reintroduced a bill Friday that hits close to an issue which greatly affects his home state: Identity theft and tax refund fraud.
South Florida ranks among top metros for identity theft complaints, according to data released earlier this week by the Federal Trade Commission. And in Florida, more than 190,000 were victims of tax-related identity theft in 2015, the most out of any other state, according to Nelson’s office.
“These fraudsters are costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year,” Nelson said. “This bill would help us crack down on these thieves, while also making it easier for those whose identities are stolen to get the refunds they’re owed.”
The intention of the bill is to “develop and implement publicly available guidelines for management of cases involving stolen identity refund fraud in a manner that reduces the administrative burden on taxpayers who are victims of such fraud.”
The bill would require the IRS to develop deadlines and procedures for resolving identify theft and tax refund fraud cases. Often times, victims are left in the dark as to how long it will take to get back their stolen tax refunds. The bill would create deadlines for those matters.
For anyone that has been transferred from representative to representative when dealing with an issue, it’s clear how frustrating the process can be. The bill would set a standard for how many IRS offices and employees a victim should be required to interact with to resolve their refund-theft case.
The bill also raises the maximum criminal penalty for tax refund fraud from $100,000 to $250,000, and suggests procedures for notifying victims of suspected identity theft.
Right now, the process of regaining control over a stolen identity can be very difficult. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration estimated that taxpayers whose identities were stolen waited more than nine months, on average, to get their claims resolved by the IRS. Some waited as long as two years.
The bill’s next move is to the Senate Banking Committee.