Either one particular home in South Florida is really, really crowded, or there's something shady going on.
In 2010, 741 tax returns were filed to the federal government from a single address in Belle Glade, Fla., the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. In response, the Internal Revenue Service issued over $1 million in combined tax refunds to that address, which is, y'know, embarrassing.
Most or all of those returns were probably filed by identity thieves, and the Belle Glade case isn't even the worst of it, according to a report issued last month by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. That report notes that in addition to the Belle Glade home, there was an address in Tampa that sent in 518 tax returns and got back almost $1.8 million in refunds, and an address in Lansing, Mich., sent in 2,137 tax returns and got more than $3.3 million back. The returns from these addresses all bore the hallmarks of identity theft, according to TIGTA.
Tax-refund scams don't seem to be going away any time soon. Identity theft and fraud are reportedly rampant in some parts of the country, especially Florida, which is home to three of the five U.S. addresses that filed the greatest number of tax returns in 2010, according to the TIGTA report.
Scams of this kind are growing more common, and they're making it harder for law-abiding taxpayers to get refunds that are rightfully theirs. Identity thieves reportedly have a number of ways to soak the IRS, from borrowing the names and information of dead people to hijacking the Social Security numbers of Puerto Rican citizens, who don't pay federal income tax. The TIGTA report estimates the IRS will send out $21 billion in refunds to criminals over the next five years.
That's a forecast the IRS itself has, not surprisingly, taken issue with, and the agency claims it's cracking down on identity thieves and fraudulent returns. The IRS has reportedly put controls in place to spot stolen identities and returns that use the Social Security numbers of dead people. Last week, CNNMoney reported the agency has already picked out almost twice as many suspicious returns this year as it had by this time last year.
Still, fooling the IRS doesn't seem like an impossible task, considering one guy reportedly did it from a jail cell with a typewriter, according to a recent story in The Kansas City Star.