Congress Cracking Down on Tax-Refund Fraud

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 @ 2:22PM

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By William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Congress is moving to crack down on tax-return fraud, a form of identity theft that has exploded across Florida in recent years.

The House passed a bill this week introduced by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz that would toughen penalties and widen enforcement to try to spare taxpayers from losing thousands of dollars of refunds.

Investigators say many victims don’t realize their identity has been stolen until they learn that someone has used their Social Security numbers to file false tax returns.

Fraud cases of this kind nationwide nearly doubled last year, from 1.1 million to 1.84 million stolen tax returns. It has cost the U.S. Treasury or taxpayers nearly $9 billion in the last two years and $21 billion in the last five years.

Much of the tax fraud is centered in Florida, where local police are overwhelmed by cases of identity theft.

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