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2/15/2018
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IRS Reports Steep Decline in Tax-Related ID Theft

Research group Javelin confirms that the numbers are trending in the right direction, with total fraud losses dropping more than 14% to $783 million.

The Internal Revenue Service has reported a significant decrease in tax-related identity theft for the second year in a row, pointing to its Security Summit program with state tax agencies and the tax industry as the reason for the improved numbers.

The Security Summit program, which was formed in 2015 to combat tax-related identity theft, provides multiple behind-the-scenes safeguards to protect taxpayers such as providing security best practices tips and enhancing taxpayer authentication procedures, for example. 

According to the IRS, the agency in 2017 received 242,000 reports from taxpayers that they were victims of tax-related identity theft, compared to 401,000 in 2016 - a drop of nearly 40%.

"These dramatic declines reflect the continuing success of the Security Summit effort," says Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter. "This partnership between the IRS, states and tax community is helping protect taxpayers against identity theft. More work remains in this effort, an we look forward to continuing this collaborative effort to fight identity theft and refund fraud."

Some Progress

Al Pascual, senior vice president, research director and head of fraud and security at Javelin Strategy & Research, says that while the IRS has made progress, taxpayers need to understand that criminals are still keeping up the pressure.

Javelin, which tracks and conducts research on identity theft, found that reported incidents of tax-related identity fraud actually increased from 392,000 in 2016 to 425,000 in 2017. Pascual says these are people who told Javelin they were hit with tax-related identity fraud, but might not have necessarily reported it to the IRS.

The good news overall is that the total number of actual refund loss has gone down – as has the average amount, he says. Actual refund loss declined to $783 million in 2017, from $914 million in 2016. And the average individual refund loss dropped a little more than 14% to $1,750 in 2017, down from $2,214 in 2016.

"What's happened is that there are more cases, but the criminals are getting away with less money," Pascual says. "Overall, it's trending in the right direction because the total amount of money stolen has gone down."

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Steve Zurier has more than 30 years of journalism and publishing experience, most of the last 24 of which were spent covering networking and security technology. Steve is based in Columbia, Md. View Full Bio

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