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IRS steps up efforts to fight ID-theft tax fraud

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By USA Today
Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 10:18 p.m.

The IRS on Thursday pledged to provide swifter help to hundreds of thousands of frustrated Americans victimized by tax fraud through identity theft.

“I want you to know that we understand your frustration, and we're working hard to get your cases resolved as quickly as we can,” acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller said as he announced the federal tax agency's latest efforts to combat the fast-rising crime.

It won't be easy.

The IRS caseload — involving victims whose stolen Social Security numbers were used by thieves to collect unwarranted tax refunds — soared to 449,809 in 2012, up more than 80 percent from the previous year, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson reported to Congress last month.

Victims routinely need to wait more than six months and speak to multiple IRS employees before their issues are resolved, reported Olson, who heads an independent office within the IRS.

The IRS resolved more than 500,000 identity-theft cases during the last calendar year, but still has just under 300,000 similar cases pending, Miller said.

“We still are challenged by our inventory, and folks are waiting longer than they should expect to,” he said. “This is going to improve over the next year.”

The IRS as of late 2012 had more than 3,000 employees working on identity theft-related issues, more than double the 2011 count, Miller said. An additional 35,000 employees have been trained to aid victims and help taxpayers recognize identity theft indicators, he said.

After absorbing federal budget cuts during the past two fiscal years, the IRS has reassigned workers from other jobs to help with identity theft response.

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