Taxpayer Identity Theft Rises 460 percent
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Taxpayer Identity Theft Rises 460 percent

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The IRS office that advocates for individual taxpayers is receiving more cases than ever and is processing them more slowly, a new report found. The report, written by the Treasury's Inspector General for Tax Administration, found that stronger enforcement and recent legislative changes are bogging down the IRS’ Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), impeding its ability to help taxpayers resolve issues quickly.

“I believe many of the issues identified in our review will continue to present challenges for this problem-solving organization,” said Inspector General Russell George in a statement.

The report, which did not offer recommendations, found that the number of identity theft cases more than quintupled between fiscal years 2006 and 2009, for example. Some 14,023 cases were filed in 2009, up from 2,486 in 2006. It also found that TAS took an average of 80 calendar days to solve a taxpayer problem in 2009 — two full weeks longer than in 2005. TAS’ workload has risen 38 percent in that time, the report found.

A senior Treasury Inspector General official attributed much of the rise in cases to the economic downturn and the government's responses. “Things like the economic stimulus payment, that was one example of a legislative change that resulted in more taxpayers coming to the taxpayer advocate to ask for assistance,” the official said.

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson acknowledged the trends in the report, but she said that the main mission of her organization is to get the job done correctly. “We would rather take longer and resolve the case correctly than score a quick hit but fail to assist a taxpayer properly,” she said in a letter attached to the report. She also pointed to a workload re-balancing program her office implemented, and said that she plans to unveil an integrated computer system in 2013 in an effort to make operations more efficient.

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