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The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration released an interim filing season report on Monday that found the tax processing system remains vigilant in detecting and preventing fraudulent tax returns. The system rejects e-filings and does not post paper returns to prevent fraudulent tax returns from entering.
Tax fraudsters continue to collect millions of dollars despite efforts by the Internal Revenue Service to catch more identity theft tax returns. Between February 25, 2023, and February 25, 2024, the IRS identified 31,079 tax returns with approximately $3,010.7 million in fraudulent refund claims, of which $303.7 million (97.7%) were prevented from being issued. In comparison, the IRS stopped fraudulent refunds totalling $817.4 million last filing season, while fraudulent refunds totalling $807.9 million were stopped this filing season.
Nevertheless, the report included a caveat. The IRS informed TIGTA that approximately 44,000 tax returns were identified in 2021 but were not completed until 2022, resulting in more fraudulent refunds than average. Based on comparisons made in 2021, fraudulent refunds amounted to $15.96 million, and $12.6 million were stopped as of February 25, 2021.
The IRS will employ 236 filters for the 2023 filing season to identify potentially fraudulent tax returns and prevent refunds from being issued. According to IRS records, 168 filters were used during the 2022 filing season. Tax returns with confirmed ID are screened by criteria based on income and withholding amounts, filing requirements, prisoner status, taxpayer age, and filing history. When these filters detect tax returns, they are held for verification by the IRS until the taxpayer’s identity has been verified. A fraudulent refund can be prevented if the IRS cannot verify the taxpayer’s identity.
There has been an increase in the IRS’s efforts to stop fraudulent tax returns filed on behalf of deceased individuals and prison inmates. The IRS locked approximately 52.5 million taxpayer accounts of dead people as of January 20, 2023, down from 49.1 million as of December 31, 2021. Paper tax returns cannot be posted to the IRS Master File when tax accounts are locked. A deceased taxpayer account lock resulted in the rejection of 84,401 fraudulent e-filed tax returns by the IRS as of February 28, 2023, and the blocking of 564 paper tax returns.
Using information from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, state correctional agencies, and the Prisoner Update Processing System, the IRS combats refund fraud involving tax returns filed with prisoners’ Social Security Numbers (SSNs). Data from the system is used to identify tax returns filed by prisoners with Social Security Numbers (SSNs) for additional screening. The IRS determined 14,939 potentially fraudulent tax returns filed by prisoners for extra screening as of February 25, 2023, a 55.5% decrease from 2022. As of March 4, 2023, 802,449 IP PINs had been issued to taxpayers.
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