COMMENTS: Taxman Cometh

It is tax time. Both ABC and NBC used the impending April 15th deadline as a flimsy news hook to file features that have very little to do with the Internal Revenue Service. NBC's Lisa Myers chose crime. ABC's Betsy Stark chose immigration.

For ABC's A Closer Look, Stark examined taxpayers who live here illegally. In order to collect, the IRS issues up to 1.5m Individual Tax Identification Numbers each year, indifferent as to whether the recipient has a legal visa or not. The IRS refuses to share ITIN data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "We want your money whether you are here legally or not and whether you earned it legally or not," IRS Commissioner Mark Everson told the National Press Club.

NBC's Myers uncovered a new wrinkle on identity theft. Fraudsters apply to the IRS for authorization as online tax preparers and then fabricate returns for total strangers that include huge refunds. The refund applications are then used to borrow money from banks. By the time the IRS checks the return, the loan has been taken out and the tax preparer has disappeared. Phony preparer Evangelos Saukos bragged: "It is easier than a bank or even calling a department store call center for a credit card." Saukos pocketed $43,000--but he failed to explain why, if the scam is so easy, he was caught and is now serving time in federal prison.


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