IRS strikes back as agents make big dent in identity theft

FILE - This April 13, 2014, file photo, shows The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) headquarters building Washington. Although many small business owners hire accountants and attorneys to complete their income tax returns, taxes are a hassle. In a survey released in 2015 by the advocacy group National Small Business Association, nearly 60 percent of the owners surveyed said the administrative burdens were the biggest problems posed by federal taxes. And 85 percent of the more than 675 owners said they relied on a professional to prepare their returns. (AP Photo/J. David Ake, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) – The IRS reports that the number of identity theft victims plummeted last year after agents struggled for years to combat what has become a multibillion-dollar industry.

The IRS says the number of victims dropped by 46 percent, to 376,000. These taxpayers had their identities stolen by criminals who used their Social Security numbers and birthdates to obtain fraudulent tax refunds.

The IRS stopped nearly 1 million fraudulent refunds from being issued last year. The agency says they totaled almost $6.6 billion.

The IRS credits a new partnership with major tax preparers and state tax agencies who now share information about potential threats and scams. The agency has also beefed up its computer filters to better detect potentially fake tax returns.

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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