Around this time last year, the IRS began a pilot program in the state of Florida that allowed IRS personnel to share confidential taxpayer information with local law enforcement to simplify the finding and prosecuting of identity thieves. Then in October 2012, the IRS opened up the program to eight more states: California, Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. Now effective Friday, March 29, 2013, the “Law Enforcement Assistance Program” has been opened to all 50 states.
This is basically how the program works:
- Local law enforcement identifies potential identity theft situation
- With the help of IRS, local law enforcement reaches out to identity theft victim to request consent for disclosure of personal tax records
- If victim agrees to disclose the information, the victim completes a special IRS disclosure form
- Law enforcement submits paperwork to IRS Criminal Investigation
- IRS Criminal Investigation processes the paperwork and disclosure forms, then forwards the relevant documents to the requesting local law enforcement officer(s)
This appears to be an important and successful program, with more than 1,560 waiver requests received over the last 12 months. However, it is also apparent that the goal of helping the victims of identity theft will be achieved with or without the cooperation of local law enforcement. The IRS says it has resolved a whopping 200,000 identity theft cases since the beginning of 2013!
The IRS follows a three-pronged approach to combating identity theft:
- Prevent it from ever happening in the first place
- Where it cannot be prevented, detect it as early as possible
- Assist those who have been victimized