DEAR BUBBAS AND BUBBETTES,

The more you read these stories, the easier it is to understand why the IRS, and the Congress, spend so much time vilifying Americans who live overseas.  It is ever more obviously a distraction strategy to get people to look far away, rather than up close, at what is really going on. Perception management at its finest!

And, since we have not a single dedicated advocate anywhere in the U.S. Government today, either in the Executive Branch, Congress, or the Judiciary, to speak out and defend us, we who live abroad are the irresistibly tempting long hanging fruit, which can be an ever available Piñata whenever the next distraction option card needs to be played.

So enjoy yet another ridiculous story and howl with laughter yet again.  And prepare for the inevitable next attack pompously declaring how bad and immoral overseas Americans are, by definition, and will always so usefully remain. AMEN!

And if you have a few extra moments, take a look at the attached TIGTA report too, because this Florida address story seems to be small chicken feed compared to what has been coming out of addresses in Michigan and elsewhere.

My, oh my, oh my indeed!!!!

tigta_on_tax_refund_fraud_july_2012.pdf
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741 TAX RETURNS FILED FROM SINGLE FLORIDA ADDRESS, IRS SENT BACK OVER $1 MILLION IN REFUNDS

By Alexander Eichler, HuffingtonPost, 7 August 2012.

More than 700 tax returns were filed in 2010 from a single residential address in Belle Glade, Fla. The IRS reportedly issued over a million dollars in refunds to the Belle Glade address that year.

Either one particular home in South Florida is really, really crowded, or there's something shady going on.

In 2010, 741 tax returns were filed to the federal government from a single address in Belle Glade, Fla., the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. In response, the Internal Revenue Service issued over $1 million in combined tax refunds to that address, which is, y'know, embarrassing.

Most or all of those returns were probably filed by identity thieves, and the Belle Glade case isn't even the worst of it, according to a report issued last month by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (see attached). That report notes that in addition to the Belle Glade home, there was an address in Tampa that sent in 518 tax returns and got back almost $1.8 million in refunds, and an address in Lansing, Mich., sent in 2,137 tax returns and got more than $3.3 million back. The returns from these addresses all bore the hallmarks of identity theft, according to TIGTA.

Tax-refund scams don't seem to be going away any time soon. Identity theft and fraud are reportedly rampant in some parts of the country, especially Florida, which is home to three of the five U.S. addresses that filed the greatest number of tax returns in 2010, according to the TIGTA report.

Scams of this kind are growing more common, and they're making it harder for law-abiding taxpayers to get refunds that are rightfully theirs. Identity thieves reportedly have a number of ways to soak the IRS, from borrowing the names and information of dead people to hijacking the Social Security numbers of Puerto Rican citizens, who don't pay federal income tax. The TIGTA report estimates the IRS will send out $21 billion in refunds to criminals over the next five years.

That's a forecast the IRS itself has, not surprisingly, taken issue with, and the agency claims it's cracking down on identity thieves and fraudulent returns. The IRS has reportedly put controls in place to spot stolen identities and returns that use the Social Security numbers of dead people. Last week, CNNMoney reported the agency has already picked out almost twice as many suspicious returns this year as it had by this time last year.

Still, fooling the IRS doesn't seem like an impossible task, considering one guy reportedly did it from a jail cell with a typewriter, according to a recent story in The Kansas City Star.

INVESTIGATION FINDS 741 TAX RETURNS FILED FROM SINGLE BELLE GLADE HOME

By Donna Gehrke-White, Florida Sun Sentinel, 6 August 2012.

A small South Florida city has attracted the attention of federal investigators looking into tax refund fraud and identity theft, according to an independent watchdog agency that oversees the Internal Revenue Service.

In Belle Glade, nestled along Lake Okeechobee, 741 tax returns worth more than $1 million in refunds were filed from a single address last year, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

The Belle Glade address ranked third nationally for number of returns filed. Investigators would not release the address, citing confidentiality rules on tax returns. But House Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany Jr., R-La., referred to it as a home.

Three of the top five addresses used to file potentially fraudulent returns were in Florida, the Inspector General reported.

Tampa and Miami were mentioned as the top cities where potentially fraudulent 2010 tax returns were filed last year.

Nationally, thieves are suspected of using the identities of 2,274 children, 105,000 dead people and almost 1 million people who don't normally file returns to collect $5.2 billion in refunds.

The Inspector General's analysis found that incidents of identity theft jumped 155 percent last year.

"The report really underscores just how bad a problem ID tax fraud is in Florida and around the country," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who asked the Treasury Inspector General last year to investigate the extent of the problem. "It's become an epidemic that's costing law-abiding U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars. And it's one we've got to fix. That's why I've filed legislation aimed at putting a stop to these fraudsters."

The IRS disputed some of the watchdog's findings, including estimates of $21 billion in potentially fraudulent tax returns in the next five years.

Plantation IRS spokesman Mike Dobzinski said Monday that his agency "along with the Department of Justice, has significantly stepped up its activities to pursue those who attempt to steal identities to commit tax fraud." That will help cut down on future abuse, he said.

But Rep. Boustany was concerned that the IRS wasn't spotting suspicious multiple filings at one address.

In addition to the Belle Glade home, an Orlando post office box allegedly received $1,088,691 for 703 suspected fraudulent tax returns filed, he said. A home in Tampa netted even steeper refunds: It allegedly sent out 518 potentially fraudulent fake returns but collected nearly $1.8 million from Uncle Sam, Boustany said.

David Barnes, public affairs liaison of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, said his agency "did not analyze the fraud by geographic or metropolitan location." So he said he couldn't comment on why the state — and South Florida in particular — leads the nation in identity theft.

His agency's report showed, for example, that Miami thieves allegedly submitted nearly 75,000 bogus tax returns last year and received nearly $281 million in refunds.

It is "one of the biggest constituent problems we see in our office," said Alex Conant, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. The tax fraud "often prevents law-abiding taxpayers from receiving the tax refunds they deserve."

"Over the past several years my office has seen a dramatic increase in the number of individuals needing assistance because of tax refund identity theft, a clear indication this crime is becoming a big problem in South Florida," added U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of Weston. That's why she said she introduced a bill to help stop this problem and protect Americans.

Florida IRS spokesman Dobzinski said his agency is working hard to stop the fraud. This January, the IRS and Justice Department worked together to press 923 charges against 105 people in 23 states.

"To support our prevention efforts, we enhanced our return processing filters to improve our ability to identify false returns and stop fraudulent refunds from being issued," he added.

The IRS also established a specialized unit that analyzes and develops leads on identity theft, Dobzinski said.

But others are skeptical with several South Florida tax preparers saying tax-related identity theft is up even more this year than last.

"We need to know why the IRS is not catching this fraud," Rep. Boustany said.

 


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