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Friday October 19, 2018

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IRS Security Summit Highlights Progress

On October 17, the IRS held a Security Summit Conference in Washington. In his presentation, and in letter IR-2017-176, Commissioner John Koskinen highlighted the success of the Security Summit in reducing identity theft.

Koskinen stated, "We have made tremendous progress since the Security Summit Partnership held its first session in 2015. We have seen the number of identity theft-related tax returns fall by about two-thirds since 2015. This dramatic decline helped prevent hundreds of thousands of taxpayers from facing the challenges of dealing with identity theft issues. This reflects the unique collaboration between the tax industry, the states and the IRS. But we have much more work facing us. As we evolve, so do the cybercriminals here and abroad. We must constantly be on guard."

The IRS reports broad-based progress. During 2016, the IRS discovered 883,000 identity theft tax returns, which was a 30% decline from 2015. The IRS stopped 124,000 improper tax refunds. The reduced number of fraudulent refunds was a 50% decline from 2015.

There also were fewer victims of identity theft in 2016. There were 376,000 victims in 2016. This is down 40% from the reported 699,000 victims in 2015.

Koskinen did warn about the 2018 tax season. He noted, "We know that cybercriminals are planning for the 2018 tax season just as we are. They are stockpiling the names and Social Security Numbers they have collected. They try to leverage that data to gather even more personal information. This coming filing season, more than ever, we all need to work diligently and together to combat this common enemy."

When he was asked about a major data breach by a large public firm, Koskinen noted that there has been widespread previous theft of personal information. He counseled, "My advice to people is that you should assume your name, Social Security Number and address are already in the hands of criminals, and then act accordingly."

The IRS will continue to conduct Security Summits and provide specific information to taxpayers to help them avoid becoming identity theft victims.

Published October 20, 2017

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