Identity theft is a growing and evolving problem that imposes a financial and emotional toll on its victims. As of September 30, 2012, the IRS had identified almost 642,000 incidents of identity theft that impacted tax administration in 2012 alone, a large increase over prior years. A taxpayer may have his or her tax refund delayed if an identity thief files a fraudulent tax return seeking a refund using a legitimate taxpayer's identity information.
GAO was asked to describe identity theft issues at IRS and limits to what is known about the extent of identity theft. GAO updated its analysis on identity theft with current data on identity theft cases and interviewed IRS officials. GAO also reviewed past GAO reports to identify key attributes of successful performance measures and compare information provided by the IRS's Refund Fraud and Identity Theft Global Report ("Global Report").
To improve information available to IRS management and Congress, the GAO recommends that IRS update the Global Report to provide definitions and data sources, where such information is missing; document procedures used to compile and validate the data; and describe limitations of the data presented.