Republican lawmakers asked IRS Commissioner John Koskinen why the agency hasn’t done more to prevent fraud and identity theft during a House oversight hearing Tuesday.
“Law enforcement officers say tax fraud is so easy it has become an addiction for some criminals,” Republican Rep. Peter Roskam, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on Oversight, said in his opening statement, expressing concern the agency isn’t doing enough to fight back.
Members on both side of the aisle expressed concern over a Government Accountability Office audit that found the IRS hasn’t managed to fully implement the necessary safeguards to protect filers from security breaches.
“Former drug dealers hold tax-filing parties where they file hundreds of returns using stolen identities,” Roskam continued. “As one suspect told police, ‘Why would I take the risk to sell drugs and get busted when I can put $10,000 on a card and do it all day long from home while the cartoons are on?’”
Democrat Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York said he would like to see more criminals prosecuted and their arrests more publicized to ward off potential identity thieves.
Koskinen – whom several GOP members of Congress say should be impeached – said cybersecurity is a top priority and the agency is devoting attention to the issue, despite its “constrained resources.” The agency is bound to come across issues since it “runs the world’s most complicated tax code,” he said.
Republican Rep. Jim Renacci, a member of the panel, testified about his own struggle with having his identity stolen due to the agency’s shortcomings.
“Last May, I received a notice from the IRS stating that they had some questions for me about my 2014 tax return,” he said. “I found this troubling because I had not yet filed.”
“I learned that — sometime in early-2015—my personal information had been stolen. Someone then used that information to electronically file a fraudulent tax return for my wife and I,” he said, adding it was caught before a check was sent. “That fraudulent return, which included a fake W-2 from the U.S. House of Representatives, claimed a significant refund. And the return instructed that those proceeds go to a bank account outside of the United States.”
Renacci added his experience with the agency’s customer service was abysmal and he had to reach out to the IRS in Washington to finally get answers.
Koskinen said the IRS has been doing what it can to alert people of scams, warning the agency would never threaten or tell filers to write a check out to anyone but the U.S. Treasury. believes the best way to go about restoring trust is to quickly find problems, address them and make sure they are transparent about it.
He added it is often easier for criminals to figure out the answers to security questions due to developments in social media, so the IRS plans to put a system in place that would send a code to filers phones to verify their identities.
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