Lawmaker Pushes for Legislation to Stop Identity Theft


Rich Nugent (R – Brookesville) has been working for weeks to formulate legislation to combat identity theft. One of the main stumbling blocks to nabbing the thieves is the law that forbids the IRS from divulging tax details of victims to enforcement authorities. Nugent, former Hernando county sheriff and whose district includes part of western Marion County, said he has been working with Tampa police and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd to see how local law enforcement would benefit by greater interaction with the IRS.

South Florida is where one of the nation’s highest incidents of identity theft takes place. The US attorney in Miami, Wifredo Ferrer has labeled what is happening in Florida "a tsunami of fraud." As such he has formed a special task force to curtail the crime. Tampa police have set up a special identity theft unit where more than 20 of their own officers have themselves had their identities stolen under various circumstances. In addition, Nugent has been working to come up with new legislation that will compel the IRS to share tax information with the police and other law enforcement authorities.

On their part, the IRS announced in April a pilot program exclusive to Florida where state and local law enforcement officers with evidence of identity theft pertaining to fraudulent income tax returns could ask the victims to fill in a disclosure form giving permission to the police to access their tax records. Upon receiving permission from the taxpayer, the IRS would divulge the taxpayer's information to the police investigating officer, but not to the taxpayer. However, the IRS gave their assurance that they will work with taxpayers to make sure their records are accurate.

Nugent feels that even more can be done. For example, there is a need to shorten the time Social Security numbers of deceased individuals are available to the public before the period closes on filing their income tax returns. This length of time currently is one year. One way identity thieves operate is to obtain Social Security numbers of those who have passed away and steal their assets like their tax refunds. As such, Nugent plans to address this issue as well as get the Social Security Administration’s help in combating identity theft.

Nugent also plans to increase the penalty for identity theft in his proposed legislation. But often, this does not deter those who have never been caught. "If you never get arrested," Nugent said, "tougher penalties aren't much of a deterrent."


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Darrin Mish, Tampa Tax Attorney, The Law Offices of Darrin Mish, P.A. | Attorney Advertising

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