Ready to stop tax refund fraud

It’s tax season.

Some of you are ready to complete and submit your returns, while others will wait until the last minute. In either case, you may have some concerns about filing your return due to news stories about identity theft-related tax refund fraud. That’s what I want to talk about: what it is, and why Georgia is ready for it.

This fraud occurs when someone steals your identity and uses your personal information (name, date of birth, Social Security number, etc.) to file a tax return. Fraudsters then have the refund check mailed to them or deposited electronically into a bank account. Fraudsters may acquire multiple identities and then file for refunds.

Make no mistake about it: This is a pervasive nationwide problem, and it is possible that fraudsters could attempt to use your identity to file for your state tax refund. We at the Georgia Department of Revenue are ready for them.

Our agency’s mission is simple: to administer the tax laws of the state of Georgia fairly and efficiently to promote public confidence and compliance and provide excellent customer service. You live up to your responsibility by filing your return. It’s our job to quickly and efficiently process it. We take that responsibility seriously and work every day to be worthy of the public’s trust.

Several years ago, we saw that, as more people began filing online, it became easier for individuals to file fake returns and hide behind the Internet, so we further developed our anti-fraud program. We have worked to evaluate and adjust our processes, policies and procedures. Last year, we stopped nearly $100 million of Georgians’ tax dollars from going to criminals.

This wasn’t luck. We have increasingly instituted stricter processes and internal controls. Last year, we began using data and analytics technology — and we’re using it again this year — to detect stolen identities, map fraud rings and identify criminal relationships. When a return is flagged as potentially fraudulent, we request more information from the taxpayer to authenticate the individual’s identity. If the taxpayer fails to answer the questions, he or she can appeal the matter further. This means that delays for legitimate taxpayers with flagged returns are minimal, usually just two to three days.

Our anti-fraud program is strong. Our employees are working hard to ensure that we continue to meet our mission to Georgia’s taxpayers. That’s my message to taxpayers: We’ll be working throughout this tax season to make sure you get your refund in a timely manner. But, I also have a message for the would-be tax refund criminal: Don’t try it here. If you do, we’ll catch you, and we will prosecute you.