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Is Identity Theft Overwhelming the IRS?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the taxing-their-resources dept.

Government 85

coondoggie writes "The number of tax-related identity theft incidents is exploding, and nowhere is that more obvious than at the Internal Revenue Service, which has seen reports rise from 51,702 in 2008 to 248,357 in 2010. While it has programs in place to fight the identity theft issue, it is also hamstrung in many other areas, according to a report out this week (PDF) from the Government Accountability Office. For example, the GAO says the IRS's ability to address identity theft issues is constrained by privacy laws that limit IRS' ability to share identity theft information with other agencies."

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85 comments

In other news... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36332240)

Illegal immigrants have figured out that if you use someone else's Social Security # and claim a few dozen dependants for your income tax withholding, or exemption from income tax altogether, you don't have to pay it or answer any pesky questions from IRS agents.

Re:In other news... (2)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 2 years ago | (#36332344)

One more reason we need immigration reform. There needs to be a sane guest worker program that will help us get a handle on this problem.

Re:In other news... (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 2 years ago | (#36332388)

People don't want insane guest worker programs because that means you'd be forced to crack down on immigration and then suddenly illegals would be prevented from voting and companies would no longer have slaves.

Re:In other news... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36332812)

then suddenly illegals would be prevented from voting

That's just a myth. There's no evidence this is happening. see here [huffingtonpost.com] Best I can tell people keep bringing it up, because they're ether really stupid or know it's false and really biased. The best evidence I could find for such fraud was a 2005 GAO report (GAO-05-478) where some federal jury administrator gave estimates on the number of potential jurors claiming to be non citizens. These were pull it out of your ass numbers and not one of them was verified to not be a citizen. People will tell all sorts of lies to get out of a jury. Still, believe what you want. Liberals want lots of illegals so they can get the votes. Riiiiigh.

Re:In other news... (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 2 years ago | (#36332988)

I don't think that one of the issues interfering with reform is that illegals are voting now- but I do think a strategic consideration is that amnesty could provide large numbers of future votes. How much that weighs in, I'm not sure but I think it's part of the mix. I think a bigger part is the financial gain that comes from being able to give illegal aliens substandard pay and treatment. I don't really care who is driving it or which party is part of the problem. I think people ought to pressure all politicians to take meaningful steps to correct what is currently a shameful situation.

Re:In other news... (1)

LibRT (1966204) | more than 2 years ago | (#36337260)

All anti-immigration laws are nothing but protectionist policy to restrict the free trade of labor for the purpose of artificially inflating the standard of living in the particular country. If everyone was permitted to sell their labor anywhere at a price of their free choosing, the standard of living would go down in the short and possibly medium term (but not the long term).

Re:In other news... (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 2 years ago | (#36333008)

Illegal immigrants don't vote.

now the rich and farmers losing their wage slaves is another story.

then again american's won't work for cheap enough so someone has to do the work.

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36332434)

Race card in 3..2..1...

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36333378)

That's the old phrase. Today we like to say bigot. Right Xeni?

Re:In other news... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36332496)

No, it's one more reason showing that laws that are not enforced are a pox on this nation. Using another person's SSN, for any reason, is against the law. Who is deciding not to prosecute these cases involving illegal immigrants - and why? That's the immigration reform we need.

If you or I (middle class citizens) filed false tax returns, used another persons SSN, and claimed few dozen non-existeant dependents I think we would be prosecuted. I'm more than certain of that. Heck, I've been audited by the IRS for having a few suspect deductions (I won). I can just imagine the butthurting I would get from the IRS for doing the blatant behavior that illegal immigrants get away with every year.

Re:In other news... (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 2 years ago | (#36332694)

Who is deciding not to prosecute these cases involving illegal immigrants - and why?

Maybe someone with a limited budget who has to choose between locking people up for causing severe inconvenience, and locking people up for violence?

-jcr

Re:In other news... (3, Interesting)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#36332736)

I'd love to see every little law enforced. Maybe if Congresspeople were regularly fined hundreds of dollars for doing laundry on Thursday, we'd see a return to a more sensible corpus of legal code that is small enough for an ordinary person to understand it, and in which old, stale, useless laws are regularly pruned to make room for newer, more relevant laws.

Re:In other news... (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 2 years ago | (#36332950)

The laws are broken. They need to be fixed. The status quo hurts the immigrants and it hurts American citizens. There needs to be sensible change but I see no indications that such change is anywhere in the near future.

Re:In other news... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36333996)

Maybe if they started throwing employers butts in jail for hiring illegal immigrants in the first place the problem wouldn't be so bad. Most of them wouldn't come here if they didn't think they could find work. The fact is that both R's & D's have looked the other way about this problem because some big employers like being able to hire the cheap labor that won't complain about most of the BS they have to put up with.

Re:In other news... (1)

amxcoder (1466081) | more than 2 years ago | (#36340238)

That's fine to go after the people hiring them, but I think a lot of people calling for this don't realize that they themselves are just as guilty as the big factories and other companies. How many people in suburbs and upscale neighborhood have yardmen, handymen, landscapers, house cleaners, etc. that most are illegal alien "suspects". If we truely want to stamp it out, we need to go after EVERYONE, so people will stop hiring the illegal that mows their lawns etc. I refuse to hire a handyman for fear of hiring an illegal unknowingly and contributing to the problem. The only way to know for sure is to ask for a SSN and run it on E-Verify site, but then the liberals would call you a racist for even suspecting it, let alone trying to verify citizenship for your handyman or landscaper, or housecleaner.

Re:In other news... (1)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 2 years ago | (#36349868)

What are you going to do to punish the illegal immigrant for using an SSN that isn't there? If you knew who they were in the first place, this wouldn't be happening. So, you don't know who they are or where they live.

That's the whole problem. If your force people underground, you CAN'T track them and it just makes the situation worse. Put your self in their shoes. If your last home sucked so badly, you would risk your life to go to another place where you're very existence is a crime, would you give a crap about their laws?

The whole reason to make illegals legal is because illegal's have no reason to follow the law. Following the law will get them kicked out. Give them a reason to follow the law by making them legal, then we can tax them and track them.

Or lets do what you want, put them all in jail where it costs us $80k/year to keep them. Really, it costs us more to jail them than to let them at least work and contribute.

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36332398)

Are you implying that only illegal immigrants do this or that this is done only by illegal immigrants?

Re:In other news... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36332824)

Yes, I was implying that "you" always refers to an illegal immigrant, unless it refers to you, in which case it refers to an idiot.

Also, logic fail. In your attempt at cleverness you merely repeated yourself, which implies you're an idiot.

P.S. You're an idiot. And an idiot.

Re:In other news... (1)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335132)

Just in case someone thinks this is serious, when you put an SSN on an IRS form, they cross check it against all other forms. So if someone else uses your SSN, they will figure out which use is legit. This goes doubly for dependents. Since they started doing this, there was a large drop in dependents claimed.

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36339690)

Here's what looks to be the latest W-4 form from the IRS: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw4.pdf [irs.gov]

There's a spot for my SSN/TIN, but nothing for my dependents. My understanding from talking with HR the last time I filed one, more than 9 exemptions requires documentation.

Is Identity Theft Overwhelming the IRS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36332248)

Um...No? If you're going to ask a question in the headline, expect people to answer with a 'yes' or 'no'

MORE OPPRESSION (1)

Legal.Troll (2002574) | more than 2 years ago | (#36332360)

Typical government thugs trying to strip away the People's freedom of information. I hope Anonymous takes them down.

That's too bad =P (5, Insightful)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#36332400)

You know, perhaps if the government had a better track record of handling privacy issues then we would be willing to grant them exceptions in cases like this, where it actually benefits both the government and the individuals the information concerns. But we all know that if we let them share the information in this one case, no matter how specifically we worded the laws and regulations about it, it wouldn't be a week before the FBI and other agencies were trying to get secret search warrants or some other trickery to access the data for evidence of criminal behaviour.

Vernor Vinge's "Rainbows End" presented a world in which the government had "grown up" and was given unprecedented access to information in order to fight terrorism and regulate and maintain the internet, but didn't actually use that power to persecute people for minor stuff like drug offenses or to try and control what people said. I actually thought that was the most unreasonable part of the book. The tech was all more or less reasonable, but the idea that the government could actually get that much of a clue seems totally outside of reality.

Re:That's too bad =P (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36332452)

Yeah, it's a shame that concerns over efficiency and privacy rule out so many potentially helpful services.

Re:That's too bad =P (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#36332672)

Vernor Vinge's "Rainbows End" presented a world in which the government had "grown up" and was given unprecedented access to information in order to fight terrorism and regulate and maintain the internet, but didn't actually use that power to persecute people for minor stuff like drug offenses or to try and control what people said. I actually thought that was the most unreasonable part of the book. The tech was all more or less reasonable, but the idea that the government could actually get that much of a clue seems totally outside of reality.

Yeah. I like Vinge's work a lot, and some of it is pretty out there (Zones of Thought, anyone?), but I was a bit disappointed to see him sliding into cheap fantasy. Most Dungeons and Dragons home-made campaigns have a more credible basis of belief than that.

Re:That's too bad =P (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36332788)

I don't know if you're American or not but if you are then the joke's on you because you're the one that suffers the consequences of someone else's idiocy in this case. You're going to pay for it one way or another (either by being a victim that can't get help or paying cash/tax to fix and/or handle the problems and broken system).

You seem to have the attitude that it's someone else's problem because you don't work for the IRS or something. Every American is the victim of their incompetence.

Re:That's too bad =P (4, Informative)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#36333298)

I am an american, and my attitude is not that it's someone else's problem. My attitude is that there's a simple solution (or at least so they'd like us to believe) but unfortunately we can't use it because the government would use the solution in ways that would be worse than the original problem. I am in fact fully aware that i suffer from the idiocy of the government, what else did you think i was complaining about?

Re:That's too bad =P (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36335234)

For every complex problem there is an answer that is simple, obvious, and wrong.

AC

Re:That's too bad =P (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36333726)

"The government" isn't some other species of humans, they are your neighbors and your friends. The abuses you see are what happens when you let people whose actions are controlled by fear and paranoia have power. It's not unique to government. Just look at all the cases of corporate abuse of information. Sony's rootkits, selling your information to spammers, etc.

We need a nat'l sales tax (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36332414)

Then the IRS should stop dealing with every individual in the US, and just collect taxes from businesses. Then we could have a streamlined IRS that doesn't have to play for tens of thousands of employees.

Outmoded thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36332598)

I think there will be diminishing returns from such a statagy. It assumes that people will be employed by mega corparations. But over half the U.S population is employed by small businesses not corparations. That percentage should increase as the interenet and automation remove advantages corporations enjoy. Think about book publishing. 10 years ago you book was published by a big publisher at a big retailer. Now those corporations are going bankrupt and being replaced by direct sales. An author publishing his book on Amazon isn't an Amazon employee. Ultimately the IRS has to collect taxes from the individual.

Re:Outmoded thinking (1)

javaxjb (931766) | more than 2 years ago | (#36333034)

Of course it's streamlined assuming that the switch includes moving to taxes on sales (the only rational approach). The average number of employees I've seen stats on show around 15 to 20 employees per business, so the mega corporations are already a minor factor. Moreover, most of those businesses are already paying sales taxes and are definitely tracking sales, so it would add little overhead to the business. In fact, it would probably reduce the burden to both the business and the government when you consider the tracking and filing of at least three different payroll components (withholding, social security, medicare and many other potential modifiers such as FSAs, 401ks, SIMPLE plans). Managing changing withholding allowances would also go away. As for your Amazon example, that will not be a "typical" case and if the regulations were sensible (I realize that's a stretch) taxes would come into play for the tangible product or reasonable proxy thereof (printing and distribution of the product) where such a thing exists (consultants might need to be handled differently). Even at the individual level (for the self employed) computing and filing sales much simpler than payroll taxes (I've spent over half my career self employed and would much prefer the change to sales tax).

Sales Tax (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36333316)

Sorry did not read your heading. Your correct a simple sales tax would not add much overhead. But a complex federal sales tax would not be an improvement. The European Value Added Taxes can be expensive and difficult to impliment. There is a pontential for the goverment to micromanage things to much. You could have a situation where you track every sale and send all the data to the IRS. Where different goods and services are taxed at different rates. The IRS might actaully get bigger under a national sales tax if implimented wrong.

Re:Outmoded thinking (1)

Golddess (1361003) | more than 2 years ago | (#36333086)

An author publishing his book on Amazon isn't an Amazon employee.

And that matters with regard to Amazon being required to collect a federal sales tax because...?

Not saying a federal sales tax could replace the IRS, but it seems like you and OP are talking about two different things.

Re:We need a nat'l sales tax (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#36333870)

Then the IRS should stop dealing with every individual in the US, and just collect taxes from businesses. Then we could have a streamlined IRS that doesn't have to play for tens of thousands of employees.

This "solution" assumes several things, none of which would be true.

  1. The "sales tax" would completely replace every other federal tax. It won't. It would add to the list of taxes being paid, and there would still be personal income taxes -- because that is the only way to force those awful rich people to pay their fair share. A sales tax would not tax those awful rich people one penny on any money they put in the bank.
  2. There would be no exemptions or other reductions in the sales tax based on income or number of dependents, or for charitable contributions, or for unreimbursed medical expenses, or for home mortgage interest, or for any of the other things our current income tax code tries to social engineer. Sorry, as soon as you put in any exemptions, the IRS will still have to deal with everyone, so there will be no reduction in staffing. In fact, there will be a lot of new staff hired to deal with the new sales tax.
  3. The "sales tax" is already a cost for businesses. Not all of them. If you are a business in Oregon, you don't worry about sales taxes. This will increase the costs to businesses in every state as more people are hired to deal with the tax records.

A national sales tax would not be a solution to anything, it would just be an addition burden piled on top of the existing tax system.

Re:We need a nat'l sales tax (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334154)

It could be done by simply having businesses collect the withholding tax and there being no deducations or exemptions other than being completed exempted out of withholding. This would (obviously) end the mortgage deducation and tax refunds, but it is how it is done in many countries already. It is acceptable there because they have always had a history of never seeing the money so they don't miss it. Take away tax refunds in the US and people would certainly notice - and a lot of consumer businesses would as well.

Taking away the mortgage deduction would mean the current housing situation would be permanent - few would pay $20,000 a year in interest when they can point to a time when it didn't cost that. Renting would be as practical if not more so, thus ending the continual churn of housing in the US. Might be a good thing for some people, but the "American Dream" of owning a house would pretty much disappear in a generation.

If you read much on DailyKos and Michael Moore you will quickly see that the "answer" these people seek is to simply confiscate whatever money people have - if you have money in saving or invested then obviously you have too much and need to fork it over. This would keep the government going and eliminate most of the threat from China. We could finally have a way out from the debt and being owned by China.

The problem is, if a program like that were announced anyone with anything would quickly move it (and maybe themselves) offshore before it took effect. Rich people (i.e., people with money) aren't stupid.

Nice plan - confiscate the rich people's money - but it won't work. Taxing the rich beyond what they consider to be reasonable will result in the same thing - just move it all offshore. Nobody with more than a million dollars to their name is stuck in the US these days. So most of the ideas on how to deal with the "1 percenters" is just so much talk that has no practical impact.

Re:We need a nat'l sales tax (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334194)

The "sales tax" would completely replace every other federal tax. It won't. It would add to the list of taxes being paid

That's a straw man argument: "Replacing all taxes with a national sales tax would result in not replacing all taxes with a national sales tax." It doesn't attack the flaws of the premise, but instead attacks a different premise that's easier to attack.

A sales tax would not tax those awful rich people one penny on any money they put in the bank.

And why should it? This attitude assumes that rich people have giant Scrooge McDuck money vaults that they regularly go swimming in. To the contrary, money that is in the bank and is not being spent provides no real utility to the person with the money, and it won't until that money is spent. Moreover, money in the bank (or invested, or what have you) benefits the larger economy by making that money available for other purposes, thereby making the economy grow.

There would be no exemptions or other reductions in the sales tax based on income or number of dependents, or for charitable contributions, or for unreimbursed medical expenses, or for home mortgage interest, or for any of the other things our current income tax code tries to social engineer.

And why should there be? It's the complexity of the tax code that leads to loopholes, underpayment, the need for tax professionals to prevent people from doing something illegal, and the huge IRS bureaucracy needed to detect when someone is doing something illegal.

The "sales tax" is already a cost for businesses. Not all of them. If you are a business in Oregon, you don't worry about sales taxes. This will increase the costs to businesses in every state as more people are hired to deal with the tax records.

There are already numerous systems in existence for collecting and paying sales taxes. Many states already have separate sales tax rates by county or even by municipality, and businesses in those states who do business in multiple places in the state have to determine how much income tax to remit on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis. On the other hand, a national sales tax would involve (1) determining how much in sales you had for the term, which you should already know anyway for accounting purposes; (2) multiplying by the national sales tax rate; and (3) remitting that much money to the federal government. It's not rocket science.

Re:We need a nat'l sales tax (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334808)

If you really want to streamline things, just eliminate all taxes.

(Okay...stop laughing, I'm serious.)

The treasury can just print all the money the government needs. Taxes would then, effectively, be paid by anyone holding existing money in the form of inflation. There's definite reasons why you wouldn't want to do this (our society is not prepared to live with those levels of inflation), but it's undeniably the most streamlined way to finance our government.

Re:We need a nat'l sales tax (1)

amxcoder (1466081) | more than 2 years ago | (#36340330)

They are ALREADY doing this! It's call QE2 or "Quantative Easing", and the Federal Reserve has been doing it in stages for a year or more. They are printing money to pay their own debts, which makes our money worth less with every dollar they print. Thus, a "Hidden Tax" if you will. They can only do this so much until our money is actually "worth-less", so that idea wont work out very well either. I agree with the flat rate federal sales tax, and completely eliminate income taxes. The rich people who flaunt their money by buying jets and boats and houses all over the place will pay more in sales tax using this method over say, the "poor underclass blue coller worker" that doesn't buy all the unnecessary toys and such. The rich person that doesn't spend their money, doesn't pay much since they aren't using their money to buy stuff. The major advantage to this, is that there are no loopholes for anyone, so even illegal aliens would pay tax when they purchased things whether their income is reported or not, so 15million people don't get of taxes this way. and it gives a bigger base of payers, even if most pay only a small amount. I've read a report that said that income tax could be eliminated and still fund our current sized government with only a 23% sales tax. Sounds like a lot at first glance, but that's because everyone is used to already having income tax. Income tax, however, is many time higher than this, many time above 30% of gross income. So, in the end, many people would pay less tax than they do now, and those people who are poor or frugal, won't pay as much because they don't spend as much.

IRS, really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36332436)

What, are there criminals clamoring to pay someone else's taxes?

Re:IRS, really? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36332576)

How do I know that you DFTFA...

"In employment fraud, an identity thief uses a taxpayer's name and SSN to obtain a job. When the thief's employer reports income to IRS, the taxpayer appears to have unreported income on his or her return, leading to enforcement action, the GAO stated."

They don't pay someone else's taxes.

It's clear (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36332518)

the solution to identity theft is to bring back REAL ID.

Whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36332974)

STOP allowing companies to use your Social Security number to identify you.

It isn't a very good authenticator if the whole world knows it. And the whole world DOES know it, because everyone and his brother requires it in order to provide me with services.

Make that illegal. Restrict the use of this identifier to tax purposes only, no damn exceptions. It won't solve the problem, but it will reduce it a lot.

Re:It's clear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36333950)

Who the hell would mod this insightful? Let's fix this broken "proof of identity" system we like to call Social Security Numbers with Social Security Number v2.0 in the form of RealID [eff.org] . Now your "transactions" are indisputable because "technology can't be broken" as far as a judge is concerned. Even if it is then it's your own fault (like with PIN transactions) because you were negligent enough not to protect it, just like in today's system you were negligent enough not to keep all those people you had to give your SSN to from having a data breach.

Clearly a ploy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36332610)

To loosen IRS privacy rules and "accidentally" let them fulfill requests for information for other purposes.

a big stick (5, Interesting)

pseudorand (603231) | more than 2 years ago | (#36332684)

What we need is a law that allows victims of identity theft to sue companies who report that they paid wages to the victim when, in fact, they paid those wages to someone who stole the victim's identity. A special court should be set up to handle such cases, and the victim should simply need to show that they didn't actually receive the wages reported to the IRS by the company.

Companies would then be required to pay the victim all the wages they said they did, plus interest, legal and accounting costs, and any IRS fees and penalties the victim may have incurred. This way, the IRS gets their money, the victim gets his or her money back (and then some), and law enforcement doesn't have to waste tax dollars hunting down illegal immigrants that aren't otherwise criminals.

I know what you're thinking. This would hurt the legal immigrants and non-white U.S. citizens who couldn't get a job because employers weren't certain of their identity. Yes, that's an unfortunate side-effect, but imagine if some June the IRS sent a nasty reply to your tax return saying that you'd failed to report a bunch of your income. When I think about the headache that would be, fuck 'em!

Push the responsibility onto businesses, let them demand a method of verifying someone's right to work, and then don't complain when we get a national ID card with a picture and RFID chip. And don't pull out the stupid privacy argument. Of course the government already has such info on all of use. Let's make it official and perhaps the courts will get the opportunity to opine on how it's used.

Re:a big stick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36333116)

I know what you're thinking. This would hurt the legal immigrants and non-white U.S. citizens who couldn't get a job because employers weren't certain of their identity. Yes, that's an unfortunate side-effect, but imagine if some June the IRS sent a nasty reply to your tax return saying that you'd failed to report a bunch of your income. When I think about the headache that would be, fuck 'em!

While I don't share your lack of sympathy for legal immigrants (I am one myself, so I may be biased), it could be argued that a country should put its citizens first. However, the second part where you explicitly say "fuck 'em" to non-white citizens I take real offense. You have an inconveince as a citizen of dealing with this, in which there is an actual disagreement that you have to work through with the IRS which extends for a limited time. In response you advocate a system that quietly discriminates against other citizens forever so that you don't have to deal with chance of a limited time "headache"?

I imagine that if you belonged to the group that had to deal with this discrimination your response would be quite different. Their response to you chance of a limited time headache would probably to say "screw you".....

Re:a big stick (1)

pseudorand (603231) | more than 2 years ago | (#36468258)

WOW! Post one comment that you don't re-read too carefully and it gets mod'd to a 5!

First, let me apologize for
>the second part where you explicitly say "fuck 'em" to non-white citizen.

You should have taken offense to that and that's not how I feel. I just forgot I had added that part in there. While my sympathy for adult illegal immigrants would end quite quickly if I had to deal with the IRS, I have no ill will towards legal immigrants an citizens of any type. I guess that's the downside of a diverse culture: there's no easy way to tell the rule followers from the rule breakers.

My point was that we need to make it painful for businesses who hire illegal immigrants, painless for those of use who are legal (all of us) and make sure the IRS gets their money, because that's OUR money. And I think it will take a national ID card to do it. You probably use gmail, and that's probably not very private. You probably have heath records fairly easily accessible by lots of people with little more than a phone call. Privacy is hard and not worth the trouble, so let's just give up the false idea that we currently have any and instead reap the benefits of verifiable identity.

Re:a big stick (2)

corbettw (214229) | more than 2 years ago | (#36333180)

Wow, there's a lot of populist (and somewhat racist) nonsense there. Let's see if I can just focus on the main points.

Companies would then be required to pay the victim all the wages they said they did, plus interest, legal and accounting costs, and any IRS fees and penalties the victim may have incurred.

There are two victims when someone steals another's identity to get a job: the person who's identity was taken, and the business who hired the thief. While the former may get hit with IRS penalties on their taxes, the latter also risks getting hit with fines for violating various labor laws. Punishing them further will not help stop the problem, it will simply raise the cost of hiring new employees, resulting in fewer jobs.

I know what you're thinking. This would hurt the legal immigrants and non-white U.S. citizens who couldn't get a job because employers weren't certain of their identity.

Nope, that's not whom it would hurt. It would hurt legal citizens, regardless of race. Why? Because it's harder to forge all of the documents of someone with an H1B needs than it is to forge a social security number. If this law were passed and I was looking to employ anyone, I would avoid anyone using a citizen's SSN, no matter what.

Push the responsibility onto businesses

No, all of the responsibility for enforcing immigration and identity management belongs to the government. But first they have to provide a way for people to do what they're going to do anyway legally by giving them some carrots (like making it easier for immigrants to register with the government); if that doesn't work, then they can pull out the stick. Jumping to stricter enforcement of non-existent laws will only make things worse, not better.

Re:a big stick (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 2 years ago | (#36333352)

You really think all those businesses that are employing illegal workers are taking reasonable measures to check the documents that are currently required by federal law?

I think the reality is that some businesses are being duped and some businesses are working awful hard to not look real close.

Re:a big stick (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 2 years ago | (#36349352)

I'm sure there are some cheaters on the business side, whether out of laziness or just trying to short circuit the process or some soft-hearted desire to help people who need jobs get them (not realizing the problems for others this may cause). But you know what? There are already fines in place for not doing your due diligence. How about we enforce those before talking about saddling us with even more laws?

Re:a big stick (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334290)

No, all of the responsibility for enforcing immigration and identity management belongs to the government.

Sorry, the US Federal Government has said pretty clearly they are not going to enforce any immigration laws, ever. Obama is going around saying the border is secure and we need to legalize all the folks that are here now. Well, there are still 10,000-20,000 folks streaming into Arizona every month across the "secure" border.

If the economy was growing at 5% a year there might be jobs for all the folks coming over plus the citizens that are here already. We could give the low-wage jobs to the immigrants and they would be happy because they are making as much as 100x what they could back home. Even if they sent 80% of their income back home it still wouldn't be that bad a deal. But the economy isn't growing at 5% a year, it is at 1%, if that. There are no jobs for both the immigrants willing to work for less and the citizens, so the citizens are going to lose out to low-cost competitors. As a business owner that knows there are no penalties I would much rather pay someone $4 an hour rather than $10 a hour for the same job.

And as long as there are no penalties, the $4 a hour "undocumented worker" is going to get the job every time. And since it is 20x more than he could possibly get back home they don't mind taking chances with murderous human trafficing smugglers and a desert with signs saying "if you cross, you will die." Death is a reasonable gamble because the possible earnings are so great.

For most of the country if you employ an undocumented worker there are no penalties. If you employ 1000 undocumented workers the government might make an example out of your business - except after they round up the undocumented workers there are another 1000 at the gate waiting for the jobs that just opened up. Is anyone coming back the next week to round them up? No. How much did the company pay in fines? Almost nothing. Certainly less than employing legal workers would have cost.

Arizona has a law the requires every business to use E-Verify to check out an SSN to make sure someone is legal. It can only be done after the person is hired and if the test comes back "Illegal" you still can't fire the person or turn them in. No, they have to go down to the local office and try to straighten things out. If they don't go there are no consequences other than "they are breaking the law and could be deported." Around 200,000 people come in through Arizona alone every year. Last year around 350,000 were deported which is down from 2009. Most of these people being deported are criminals that have committed some crime in the US, been caught and convicted. What about the rest?

I don't think anyone has a handle on how many people in total came into the US illegally - even the Arizona numbers are approximate. The current guess is there is between 12 and 20 million "undocumented workers" in the US today - nobody knows really.

The government solution to immigration is clearly to open the border and let Mexico dump their people up here. The benefit for the US is cheap labor. The benefit for Mexico is fewer people complaining about the horrible economy and real healthy cash flow from remittances.

Re:a big stick (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335260)

Sorry, the US Federal Government has said pretty clearly they are not going to enforce any immigration laws, ever.

Just because the government had abdicated its responsibility doesn't mean it no longer has it.

You also completely ignore the point that without providing a way for people to do legally what they're going to do anyway you create a situation where innocent people are hurt incidentally. There has to be a simple, straightforward way for immigrants to come to this country and contribute. They're going to come anyway, that's unstoppable. So we might as well help them do so legally.

But the economy isn't growing derp (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335656)

But the economy isn't growing at 5% a year, it is at 1%, if that.

2010 GDP growth rate was 2.8%, and 2011's prediction is 3.9% now.

As for your 5% number, January 2010 GDP growth was 5%.

Re:But the economy isn't growing derp (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 2 years ago | (#36336336)

The question here is- was he talking about GDP growth or job growth. I think he meant the latter. I could give a flying fig about the GDP is I had a job. Oh, wait, I don't.

Re:a big stick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36362764)

There are two victims when someone steals another's identity to get a job: the person who's identity was taken, and the business who hired the thief.

Not so. The business loses nothing (unless they get caught paying someone that should not have been paid), and the "person who's identity was taken" loses nothing. I am not responsible for crimes that someone does simply because they give their name as "James". The same principal applies to Social Security Numbers (they certainly are no more secret than a name anymore) - I am not liable for any taxes owed by this fraudster. The only true victim is the IRS. Though, if you want to make an argument that I, as a citizen, am a victim, I can support that.

Re:a big stick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36363536)

The business loses nothing (unless they get caught paying someone that should not have been paid)

Then they lose something if they get caught.

and the "person who's identity was taken" loses nothing

After a big hassle with the IRS, they lose nothing. If you like hassling with the IRS, I guess you lose nothing.

Re:a big stick (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 2 years ago | (#36333386)

It just needs to be straightforward for citizens to repudiate the claim that they worked for an employer (which demonstrates that they are not responsible for the taxes on those wages).

That system would surely be abused, but those people could pay a healthy fine and maybe be flagged for extra scrutiny that they then have to pay for (so the employer would have to do extra checks to hire them, checks that they employee would have to pay for).

Making the employer pay the victim doesn't make a great deal of sense, far better to eliminate the inconvenience to the point that they are no longer a victim of anything.

Epic Fail (3, Informative)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 2 years ago | (#36332810)

"248,357 in 2010"

23,451,534 illegal immigants in the country now ( http://immigrationcounters.com/ [immigrationcounters.com] )
Assume only 10% work (W2/W4 compliant - meaning the IRS "knows" about them), that means the IRS only has 10% of the illegal immigration in hand.
And that is assuming the "identity theft" is not the malicious "steal from you or your credit" kind.

If you don't already know, illegal immigrants use identity theft to get jobs. They need a name, SSN and birthdate. Their payroll taxes are credited to whomever legitimately owns the SSN, thereby working under that person's identity.

Re:Epic Fail (1)

ImprovOmega (744717) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334146)

Oh come now. You don't have to have a social for every job out there. And you don't have to have a social to pay taxes. The IRS is just perfectly happy to issue you a taxpayer ID number and let you file that way. This is ignore the rampant prevalence of cash jobs out there.

I guarantee you the farmer hiring people to harvest his watermelon crop isn't validating socials.

I've seen this effect (3, Interesting)

bmidgley (148669) | more than 2 years ago | (#36332878)

Home depot refused to tell us details about someone who used my wife's name and social security number to get a credit card with them. It turns out that would violate the thief's right to privacy. The local police were waiting for a "serious" crime to be committed before they would get involved.

Re:I've seen this effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36333322)

Umm, you shouldn't care, the very fact you do is a result of letting the system screw you, not the fraudster. That's right, the person pretending to be your wife commited fraud, Home Depot or thr creditor was the victim, not your wife.

Demand reforms to the stupid credit reporting business, they are largely unregulated. Until the reforms happen the only damage your wife suffered was some BS on her credit report.

There's no such thing as identity theft, there was already a crime for what was happening: fraud. Calling it identity theft merely makes someone else's problem your own (which is why creditors are so keen on it).

Why even have a refund? (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 2 years ago | (#36333158)

If you reduce your withholding level to where you have a slight tax due (but be sure it won't exceed $500) by the end of the year, then you won't be putting your refund at risk, since you won't have one.

Re:Why even have a refund? (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 2 years ago | (#36333238)

No, then you'll just end up with a tax bill payable within 90 days.

Think of it this way: you earn $50,000 per year, and set your deductions such that at the end of the year you owe no additional tax and get no refund.

But, someone else uses your information to get a job, and makes $20,000 per year, but sets their deductions such that they owe $3,000 at the end of the the year. Now you're getting hit with a tax bill of $3,000, even though you had your deductions set perfectly. That's the problem we're talking about here.

Re:Why even have a refund? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36333694)

And then the IRS would have to produce the W2 where this $20,000 in mystery wages comes from. It should be pretty trivial to prove you didn't work there. The employer on that W2 would have to produce a photocopy of your drivers license or some other photo ID. That's why they are required to get a copy of it when they hire you. He wouldn't be able to, and they'd get whatever penalty they get for hiring an illegal.

I see your point, but is this really a problem in real life? I've never had any such issues.

Re:Why even have a refund? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36350758)

"makes $20,000 per year, but sets their deductions such that they owe $3,000 at the end of the the year."

I don't think someone making $20k/year could setup their deductions as to "owe" taxes. I could see how it would apply to the original person making $50k since they would probably get pushed into another tax bracket and actually owe money.

I make $50k/year, I have my deductions set to 2, and I get ~$5k back from the government at the end of the year.I have an effective tax rate of -1%. I actually make money from taxes. I don't do anything special. I just use Turbo Tax, plug in my income, use standard deductions for everything. I use ENTIRELY just defaults.

Once I enter in my 401k/medical/rent/loan payments/etc, my taxable income is ~$25k.

My point was I make $50k and I can't possibly setup my deductions to owe money as I have a negative tax rate, there's no way someone making $20k could do that.

But your point is taken.

Re:Why even have a refund? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36333240)

That keeps them from not giving you a refund, sure, but if they decide you owe an additional $10,000 for example, they will simply garnish your wages, take your house, car, and or put you in jail.

Re:Why even have a refund? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36333282)

The thief doesn't file a legitimate return; the thief files a return with a ton of extra deductions, so that the thief gets a fraudulent refund check.

I expect the IRS has some safeguards in place to to prevent this. E.g., match up the employer-reported salary/address/etc. with the employee-reported information, and if the information is out of whack, send a letter instead of a refund check. Maybe there's nothing, and the IRS just trusts the return? If there are safeguards, I wonder how the thief gets by them; how would the thief find out your salary, etc. Maybe there should be a unique code generated for the W-2. If the codes don't match, the IRS won't send a refund.

Re:Why even have a refund? (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 2 years ago | (#36333514)

I expect the IRS has some safeguards in place to to prevent this.

You expect a bit much; the IRS agents will, with a completely straight face, insist that since you worked full time as a roofer on the opposite coast from your second job as a full time database administrator then you must pay taxes on the roofing job's salary from which you claimed 15 deductions. It's totally up to you to jump through the hoops to show your identity was stolen; they just want to collect. If an agent can appropriate the money from your checking account before you get through enough hoops, they get a bonus for collecting on an overdue account.

Re:Why even have a refund? (1)

rwv (1636355) | more than 2 years ago | (#36333286)

Income taxes would be easy to figure out if people only got paid from one source and never got to take any deductions. People don't get paid from a single source, and more importantly deductions are pretty entrenched into the system. But many people and corporations are very happy with their deductions that they don't mind having the extra paperwork so that others who aren't entitled to those deductions get to pay a higher effective tax rate. Trillions of dollars from the real estate market are dependent on one particularly meaningful deduction which puts thousands of dollars into new homeowners pockets every year.

Re:Why even have a refund? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334012)

The main point of the discussion is identity theft. So if someone stole your identity, you cannot control what the put down. But you will be pursued by the IRS.

identity management (2)

corbettw (214229) | more than 2 years ago | (#36333266)

A big part of me doesn't like the idea of letting the government track anyone and everyone with a common identity scheme. But the reality is that, we need to have one. There are too many holes in our current system of identity management, from people getting jobs or credit in someone else's name, to visa holders disappearing into the crowd. Sadly, I think it's time for the government to set up a central clearinghouse of identities, and for each citizen's or visitor's passport to be tied back into it. We need to have someway to prove we are whom we say we are, and at the same time protect our identities, credit histories, and even criminal history (or, especially, lack thereof) from unscrupulous people.

Ideally, this would involve the use of shared keys and two-factor authentication. Unfortunately, I don't yet know how you make something like this simple enough for every person out there to use, nor have I worked through what happens when someone forgets/loses their PIN or other authentication mechanism. This should not be taken as a working solution, but as a sky-high view on what ought to be.

Re:identity management (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334374)

What is needed is an absolute way of identifying a person and confirming their unforgeable identity. Clearly it cannot be anything they hold, which could be forged.

Fingerprints are perhaps one way, but just taking a fingerprint and saying it belongs to one of 300 million people isn't going to work at all. A fingerprint MAY be unique at that scale but the subtleties of it make it far more complex than can be dealt with in any automated way. DNA again MAY be unique at that level but it still takes weeks to process it. Something is needed which can be immediately used to confirm an identity at a bank, a car dealer and an employer.

The current identity document (driver's license) in the US is a joke. Illinois, among other states, allows a matricula consular card to be used as proof of identity. While I don't know anyone that has actually done this, the process for getting one is so simple that virtually anyone could obtain one in any name they chose. Then getting a driver's license with that name means you have the gateway to all government services without any connection to a real identity.

Today we are operating a 21st Century economy with 19th Century documentation. The cracks show and they are easily exploited. It is clear that the government has little interest in solving the problem for real, just passing the buck down to the states in most cases. And blocking the states when they get frustrated with the non-solutions and try to do something themselves.

One thing that would be a step towards a real solution would be to deed Arizona and New Mexico back to Mexico and make it their problem. It has gotten to the point that WalMart has started posting some signage in Spanish only. No need for English because the English-speaking folks don't shop at WalMart anymore.

Re:identity management (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 2 years ago | (#36349334)

Giving two states to Mexico doesn't solve the underlying problem of lack of identity management. It also would do something to stem the tide of illegal immigration into the US, because it wouldn't take long before both those states slid into the same morass that all of Mexico currently lives under.

No, the only viable solution is to come up with a better way of proving whether or not someone is whom they say they are. Frankly, I don't know the answer, but suspect it involves public keys, PINs, and something like an RSA token. Issue those to all citizens upon some defined age (like 13), and make sure kids are taught how to manage them in schools (by requiring they use a similar structure to access their textbooks). It would take time and money to implement, but I think in the long run it would pay off. This is just spit balling and should not be taken as a definitive answer.

Yes there is an Identity thieft problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36333328)

The identity of a proper US government has been stolen by the rouge government now running the Declaration of Independence, The US Constitution and Bill of Right into the ground in denial and suppression of the contents of these founding documents.

So yeah, there is an Identity thief problem without question....

Abolish the IRS. Don't give iit more powers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36333338)

Shills, Fools and Tax Slaves be gone.

IRS/SSA IDENTITY SNAFU (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334722)

This has been a problem since the SSA was created in 1930's.
Wallets were displayed in dept stores with a sample SSA card in them. Folks bought the wallet and not realizing the the SSA card was just an example they used them as if they were real.

80 years later we're STILL using what amounts to an insurance policy account# as both an indicator of nationality AND as a primary form of proof of personal identity.

This is a nightmare (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36366072)

Someone stole my husbands SS# and name this year when we went to e-file and its been a nightmare. We are still waiting for our return (over 5 months). The e-file system needs to be changed to include a driver's license# . Right now all you need to e-file is a name and SS#. That's the problem, the IRS has made it too easy for the criminals. We had to close all our financial accounts, freeze our credit and prove our identity to the IRS. The IRS refuses to give any information to local police to try to find this scum. This has been a very frustrating experience and it seems the IRS could care less about the taxpayers but they will protect the criminals. If the IRS cannot fix the flaws in their e-file program then e-file should only be available through a CPA agency and the taxpayer needs to prove his/her identity.

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