TIGTA Seal graphic

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

Press Release


December 22, 2009
Contact: Li-Yun Chien
(202) 622-6500
TIGTA-PAO@tigta.treas.gov

Millions May Have Improperly Received Taxpayer Identification Numbers From IRS

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) today publicly released its review of the Internal Revenue Service’s processing of applications for Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs).

TIGTA reviewed a sample of ITIN applications and found that almost 70 percent contained significant errors and/or raised concerns that should have prevented the issuance of an ITIN. The IRS estimates that it has issued more than 14 million ITINs as of December 2008.

ITINs are intended to provide tax identification numbers to resident and nonresident alien individuals who may have U.S. tax reporting or filing obligations but do not qualify for Social Security Numbers, which generally are only issued to U.S. citizens and individuals legally admitted to the U.S. The issuance of an ITIN, however, does not change an individual’s immigration status, nor does it entitle the individual to work in the U.S. or receive Social Security benefits.

In March 2009, TIGTA reported that ITIN filers are receiving billions of dollars in Additional Child Tax Credits intended for working families even though such individuals are not authorized to work in the U.S. In its new report, TIGTA also found that the IRS has not implemented controls to prevent ITINs from being used by more than one taxpayer on multiple tax returns. For example, more than 55,000 ITINs were used multiple times on tax returns for 2007 with refunds totaling more than $202 million. Furthermore, IRS employees are required to process ITIN applications even when the applicant appears to be using another individual’s Social Security Number for work (i.e., the ITIN application includes a tax return and Form W-2 issued with another person’s Social Security Number).

"The number of individual income tax returns filed using ITINs and reporting wage income has increased by 247 percent from 2001 to 2008," commented J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. "If the IRS continues to issue ITINs without proper verification, the risk of fraudulently filed returns – along with fraudulently claimed refunds – will continue to rise," added Inspector General George.

TIGTA made several recommendations in its report, including that the IRS should revise its guidelines related to processing applications for ITINs and properly validate information provided on ITIN applications. While IRS management agreed with most of TIGTA’s recommendations, the IRS disagreed with the recommendation to develop controls to prevent ITINs from being used on multiple returns, stating that such returns are subject to audit after the return is processed. However, TIGTA strongly believes such controls should be implemented during processing, before tax refunds are issued, since only a small number of ITIN returns are subject to audit.

To view the report, including the scope and methodology, go to: http://www.treas.gov/tigta/auditreports/2010reports/201040005fr.pdf.

###

A special plugin is required to view PDF documents. To obtain the free PDF reader, please visit the Adobe web site.