Don’t Mess with the IRS. ID Theft a Top Priority.

Posted April 15, 2015

The Annual Report of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division Shows Progress against a Host of Crimes

The Criminal Investigation Division or CI had staff reductions of 11 percent, putting it at 1970 staffing levels. Despite that, the annual report notes that CI has made progress in fighting ID theft, international tax fraud, tax return preparer and questionable tax refund fraud, public corruption, Bank Secrecy Act violations, money-laundering investigations and terrorist-financing cases.

In his article on accountingtoday.com, Michael Cohn relies on the annual report and a conference call between the media and IRS Criminal Investigation Division chief Richard Weber to highlight key areas of the report. The following has been excerpted from Cohn’s story and edited to fit our format. You may find the complete article by clicking on this link.

ID theft a top priority

“Generally speaking, ID theft continues to be one of our top priorities,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Division chief Richard Weber….”Over the past year we’ve spent about 17 to 18 percent of our investigative time just working on ID theft and tax refund fraud investigations. We’re around the same rate of investigative time that we spent in the past year as we did last year.”

Stiff sentences meted out

[Weber says that in] “terms of the criminal investigations, I think we’ve made tremendous progress as well. We had a lot of significant cases that really highlight the sentences of some of these ID theft criminals. We’ve had sentences ranging from 40 months to over 240 months.”

Breaches a problem

“The reason why [breaches are] of great concern to us in CI is because if someone is going to end up stealing real information from either funeral services or software companies, or [other] legitimate businesses, it’s going to be difficult for our filters to catch that type of fraud,” said Weber.

Florida is a hotspot

While on a national basis, the average is about 18 percent of IRS CI’s investigative time spent on identity theft and tax refund fraud investigations, in areas such as Tampa and Miami, Fla., where identity theft-related tax fraud has been rampant, nearly 50 percent of IRS CI’s time is spent working on ID theft cases.

Two high profile investigations of note

Two of the highest-profile cases this year, involving Credit Suisse and Bank Leumi, are included in the report. In the largest criminal tax case ever filed, Credit Suisse pleaded guilty to conspiracy to aid and assist U.S. taxpayers in filing false income tax returns and agreed to pay a total of $2.6 billion.

Following the Credit Suisse investigation, CI led the case against Bank Leumi Group, a major Israeli international bank that admitted to conspiring to aid and assist U.S. taxpayers to prepare and present false tax returns. The agreement marks the first time an Israeli bank has admitted to such criminal conduct. Bank Leumi Group will pay the U.S. a total of $270 million and cease to provide banking and investment services for all accounts held or beneficially owned by U.S. taxpayers.

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