The IRS has had its share of scandals over the past decade and the ones which seem to draw the most attention are the partisan battles over “extra scrutiny” given to conservative groups. But what about the non-partisan, completely unbiased crooks who are just looking to rip off the government and the taxpayers to line their own pockets? There is yet another case of such alleged activity unfolding this week. The Department of Justice announced yesterday that an arrest had been made in the case of an IRS worker who allegedly engaged in identity theft, using the personal information of taxpayers to file bogus returns “on their behalf” and keeping the money for herself. (Department of Justice website)
A federal grand jury sitting in the Northern District of Georgia indicted an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee today for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney John A. Horn for the Northern District of Georgia.
According to the indictment, since November 2010, Stephanie Parker of Atlanta, Georgia, worked at the IRS and had access to taxpayers’ personal identifying information, such as social security numbers and dates of birth. The indictment alleges that between September 2012 and April 2013, Parker exploited her IRS accesses to steal such personal information, which she then used to file tax returns seeking refunds in the names of other individuals. Parker allegedly directed the fraudulently obtained refunds into nominee bank accounts and used some of those funds to purchase money orders.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
First of all, well done to the Criminal Investigation and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the DoJ for uncovering this and taking action. But in addition to identifying this one particular (alleged) instance, perhaps the new administration can take a fresh look at the hiring procedures and screening in place at the IRS. These are people who are placed in positions where they have unfettered access to all manner of private information on citizens, including all of their financial data and identification. Whether a dishonest employee is looking to score political victories or simply feather their own nest, letting any bad apples through is a huge risk.
I’d compare this to anyone wanting a job as a truck driver, just for one example. If you want to go and do short haul deliveries of bread from the bakery to the grocery store you’ll probably have a good shot at the job if you simply have a clean driving record and show up for the interview sober. But if you want a job with Loomis or Brinks driving an armored car, be prepared for a comprehensive criminal background check, interviews with anyone who has ever known you and personal monitoring of your every move. Are we exercising this level of precaution when placing new government workers at the IRS? If so, great. But if not, the new broom may want to sweep even more cleanly at the Internal Revenue Service.
Americans are forced to pay taxes. They are also given no choice in entrusting this task and all of the responsibilities for safeguarding their private data to the federal government. They have a right to know that the best possible practices are in place to ensure that trust is deserved.