Congressman Platts holds final hearing, targets tax ID theft - abc27 WHTM

Congressman Platts holds final hearing, targets tax ID theft

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It is a growing nightmare for millions of American taxpayers -- identity thieves fraudulently filing for and getting tax returns, cashing the treasury checks and leaving unsuspecting victims holding the bag.

A committee hearing chaired by Congressman Todd Platts (R-19th) on Thursday laid out the scary scenario of identity theft related tax fraud. There were just over 51,000 case in 2008, he said. That number skyrocketed to 1.1 million last year. And that's only the known cases. The real number could be much higher.

This is the fourth hearing Platts has convened on the topic and it will also be his last. The six-term congressman has been representing parts of Adams, Cumberland and York Counties in D.C. since 2000. He is retiring at the beginning of the year.

Platt is the chair of the subcommittee looking into identity theft, tax fraud problem. Though the amount of the average fraudulent return is $3,400, it is estimated the IRS will issue $21 billion in refunds to the wrong person over the next five years.

Platts' focus has been on the victims of the identity thieves. He says they often spend years unsnarling the damage and frequently must stare down snarling IRS employees. In opening remarks to the subcommittee, Platts said victims are not receiving adequate assistance from the IRS.

"This subcommittee heard from three witnesses who had been victims of identity theft and learned that their interactions with IRS were often uninformative, frustrating, or discourteous.  One witness stated that, 'the way I feel I have been treated by the IRS system has made me a victim a second time.'" 

Platts want the IRS to do a better job dealing with victims and also enact safeguards to thwart tax return thieves. One idea, is a personal identification number (PIN) that taxpayers would use to further secure their returns.

Platts' last day in Congress is January 2. He'll be replaced by Republican Scott Perry. Platts said that his departure should not be an end to Congress interest in identity theft related tax fraud.

"This continues to be a serious problem and continued oversight is needed."


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