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Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

Press Release


December 3, 2015
TIGTA - 2015-43
Contact: Karen Kraushaar, Director of Communications
Karen.Kraushaar@tigta.treas.gov
(202) 622-6500

Improvements Are Needed in the Identity Protection Specialized Unit to Better Assist Victims of Identity Theft

WASHINGTON — Improvements are needed at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to better assist victims of identity theft, according to a new report released publicly today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

As part of the IRS’s strategy to reduce taxpayer burden caused by identity theft, the Identity Protection Specialized Unit (IPSU) was formed in October 2008. The IPSU is a dedicated unit organized for the purpose of enabling victims of identity theft to get their questions answered and obtain assistance in getting their issues resolved quickly and effectively.

In May 2012, TIGTA reported that the IPSU was not achieving its original purpose of providing each identity theft victim with a single assistor to answer questions and resolve his or her issues. TIGTA initiated this audit to follow up on the current effectiveness of the IPSU in meeting its goals. The objective of the review was to determine whether the IPSU results in a streamlined process to help resolve identity theft cases and provides victims with a single point of contact.

In its review, TIGTA found that the IRS no longer provides the majority of identity theft victims with an IPSU single point of contact because, according to the IRS, budgetary constraints prevent it from doing so. In addition, the IRS did not always issue required acknowledgement and case status letters to taxpayers or effectively conduct research to identify and assist taxpayers who submit identity theft claim documentation without their Social Security Number. Finally, a comprehensive process has not been established to ensure that IPSU customer service representatives timely address taxpayer voicemail messages.

TIGTA recommended that the IRS ensure that required acknowledgement and case status letters are timely sent to victims of identity theft, that cases submitted without a complete Social Security Number are properly researched, and that a process is developed whereby customer service representatives timely respond to taxpayers’ voicemail messages. The IRS agreed with all three recommendations and plans to take corrective action.

“The IRS should provide quality customer service to all taxpayers, including those who have been victimized by identity thieves, and this service should include mailing timely acknowledgement and case status letters,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “It is imperative that the IRS make every effort to answer the questions and address the problems of these victims efficiently and effectively,” he added.

Read the report.

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Note: The difference between the date TIGTA issues an audit report to the Internal Revenue Service and the date TIGTA publicly releases the report is due to TIGTA's internal review process to ensure that public release is in compliance with Federal confidentiality laws.