Government shuts down identity theft enabling operation: its own. The budget compromise headed to the President’s death places new restrictions on the Social Security Death Master File. While prized by genealogists for their work, it’s prized even more by thieves, who use the information on it to snap up fraudulent tax refunds in the names of the dead. It’s been a multi-billion dollar problem for years.
The person who stole the identity of the late husband of Jason Dinesen’s client almost certainly did so using DMF information, stealing unknown amounts from the government and disrupting the client’s tax life for years.
Bloomberg Business explains the new restrictions:
The legislation would exempt the records from the federal Freedom of Information Act and give the Commerce Department 90 days to set up a process to certify legitimate users. The public would have access to the data three years after an individual’s death.
The language in the bill was taken from a Senate Finance Committee draft from which lawmakers had asked for comment by mid-January, said Alane Dent, vice president for taxes and retirement security at the American Council of Life Insurers.
While the restrictions seem long overdue, not everyone is happy about them, aside from identity thieves. Newsweek reports:
“Closing the Death Master File is ludicrous,” said Melinde Lutz Byrne, one of the nation’s top genealogists and part of a small group of forensic researchers at Boston University. They have banded together and for two years have fought similar proposals in Texas and Florida to block public access to the Death Master File.
“It is my opinion that the science of it all has bypassed our elected representatives and even the courts,” she said.
It’s a trade-off, but I think preventing fraud deserves priority here. Still, the objectors are right about this:
“The IRS is handing out money like candy – and nobody wants to acknowledge it,” said Sharon Sergeant, a forensic researcher, technologist and tax-software programmer who strongly supports the Boston University group. “Why isn’t it checking to make sure dead people aren’t getting tax returns? Somebody who reads the obituaries and makes up a social security number the right way, according to the algorithm, can file a tax return and get a payment. It’s got nothing to do with the Death Master File. It has everything to do with the IRS not doing its job.”
But The Worst Commissioner Ever felt it was more important to expand power over preparers than to stop the thieves.
2013 year-end tip: Donate your appreciated stock now! The tax law allows you to claim a full-value charitable deduction for donating appreciated long-term capital gain securities that are publicly-traded. It’s a tax-efficient way to donate, as you get the full deduction without ever paying tax on the appreciation.
But there is a hitch: you have to get the stock to your favorite charity’s brokerage account by December 31 to get the deduction. That can take time, especially when dealing with less-sophisticated smaller charities. If you want a 2013 deduction, start by contacting the charity and learning how they want you to get the securities to them by year-end. Remind the charity that they need to provide you a written acknowledgement of the gift. And make sure your own broker knows the transfer has to be completed this year.
Come back tomorrow for another 2013 year-end tax tip!
Just bluffing. ”Archer Daniels Midland Co. decided Wednesday to set up its new international headquarters in Chicago even after it failed in its bid for millions of dollars in state tax breaks.” Next time our politicians claim to have “created jobs” by giving away your money, remember that they are giving their friends money to do things they would be doing anyway.
Cara Griffith, The Tax Reform Debate…for a Limited Few in Wisconsin (Tax Analysts Blog):
What was advertised as an “outstanding opportunity for the hardworking taxpayers” to engage in discussions about tax reform are also closed to the public…
Making tax proposals available to the public and opening up a dialogue with affected taxpayers can be eye-opening for people who will eventually have to develop and administer the proposal. If tax legislation is enacted, those who wrote the legislation, those who will enforce it, and those who will be affected by it should all understand what the legislation was designed to do.
Politicians and their friends don’t like company.
Christopher Bergin, Transparency Is in Our DNA (Tax Analysts Blog):
Tax Analysts is involved in litigation in the commonwealth of Kentucky to get its Department of Revenue to begin releasing redacted copies of final letter rulings. The agency is resisting that, which is why we are in court.
Bureaucrats and their friends don’t like company either.
Chris Stephens, Pressure Mounts Against “Jock Tax” in Tennessee (Tax Policy Blog):
For example, a player at the NBA league minimum of $500,000 who is paid per game would make about $6,097 per game. If the player plays only one game in Tennessee he would pay a tax of $2,500 for that game, which is a tax rate of 41 percent. It is also worth noting that the player would also pay approximately 40 percent in federal income taxes, potentially leaving almost nothing in take home pay.
The states that want to pick the stars’ pockets forget that not everybody is paid like LeBron. Unfortunately, the federal proposal to prevent state income taxation of employees only in-state for a few days doesn’t cover athletes or entertainers, treating the couch-surfing musician the same as Peyton Manning.
TaxGrrrl, IRS Finally Announces Start Date To 2014 Tax Filing Season Filing season starts January 31.
Paul Neiffer, Tax Filing Begins January 31, 2014
Tony Nitti, With Tax Break Set To Expire, Partnerships Should Consider Converting To C Corporations Before Year End. This is a 100% exemption on gains for C corporation stock received on original issue held for at least five years.
Robert D. Flach, WHAT’S NEW FOR NEW YORK INCOME TAXES FOR 2013
Margaret Van Houten, How to Maintain Records for your Digital Assets (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)
Jim Maule, Let’s Not Extend The Practice of Tax Extenders. Agreed.
Stephen Olsen, The “IRS Investigations” Scam. A client he helped through the OVDI “amnesty” program gets targeting by a scammer. Troubling.
Jack Townsend, Judge Rakoff Speaks on the Dearth of Prosecutions from the Financial Crisis He quotes the judge: “But if, by contrast, the Great Recession was in material part the product of intentional fraud, the failure to prosecute those responsible must be judged one of the more egregious failures of the criminal justice system in many years.”
It’s at least as much political fraud as financial fraud, but political fraud is never prosecuted.
TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 224
News from the Profession: Future CPA Seeking the Best CPA Review Course Someone Else’s Money Can Buy (Going Concern)