IRS: Business-related ID theft on the rise

24 min ago

07/25/17 03:22 PM EDT

The IRS is seeing a rise in business-related identity thefts even as the number of individuals who report ID theft is significantly declining.

“The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax community have worked hard to turn the tide against tax-related identity theft," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a statement. "We’re making progress in protecting individuals but we still have more work to do, especially in the business tax area and involving tax professionals."

In the first five months of 2017, about 107,000 individuals told the IRS that they were victims of ID theft. That's a 47 percent decline compared to the same period in 2016, when 204,000 individuals reported being ID-theft victims, the IRS said. In the first five months of 2015, almost 297,000 individuals reported being ID-theft victims.

However, ID theft involving business-related tax returns is increasing. The IRS said it has identified about 10,000 business returns as possible ID theft cases in the first five months of this year, which is up from about 4,000 in 2016 and 350 in 2015.The IRS said that some of the increase in business-related ID theft is occurring because criminals are increasingly focused on stealing data from professional tax preparers.

“It’s especially difficult to identify any tax return as fraudulent when criminals are using information stolen from tax preparers,” Koskinen said. “The stolen data allows criminals to better impersonate the legitimate taxpayers.”

To help combat ID theft, the IRS in 2018 will ask tax preparers to collect more information about their business clients. That information will help the IRS when it determines whether a tax return is legitimate or the result of ID theft, the agency said.