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IRS criminal investigators are putting more tax crooks in jail

There's no IRSCI television show yet, but the Treasury's criminal investigation division is definitely getting more attention for the enforcement numbers it's been racking up of late.

The Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation -- that's the name responsible for CSI-like acronym -- cited "significant increases in enforcement actions against tax criminals and a robust rise in convictions" in its recently released 2013 annual report.


CI investigates potential tax code criminal violations and related financial crimes. In fiscal year 2013, the division's agents reported a 12.5 percent increase in overall investigations compared to the prior year and a nearly 18 percent gain in prosecution recommendations.

The numbers breakdown is 5,314 cases investigated with recommendations that 4,364 cases be prosecuted. The 2013 conviction rate was 93 percent, an increase of more than 25 percent compared to the prior fiscal year.

Those results are more notable, says the IRS, because during that time frame its agent resources were cut by more than 5 percent.

Second tax crimes study also shows progress: A second statistical look at tax crimes also shows progress being made by the good guys.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data collection and research organization at Syracuse University, looked at tax-related criminal prosecutions from 2001 through 2013. It found that the number of cases referred by the IRS to the Justice Department for adjudication has skyrocketed under the Obama administration.

IRS tax crime prosecutions Obama v Bush_TRAC Syracuse study

The average number of cases referred each year by the IRS to prosecutors has risen by 38.4 percent during the Obama administration when compared with the Bush years, according to TRAC.

The number of these cases that get prosecuted by the government also rose, by 20.3 percent.

Convictions also are drawing slightly longer average prison terms, 27 months under Obama versus 25 months under Bush.

Increasing identity theft investigations: CI's 36-page report summarizes its activities in the 2013 fiscal year on a range of criminal enterprises, including tax crimes, money laundering, public corruption, terrorist financing and narcotics trafficking financial crimes.

Identity theft also got attention from T-men.

CI initiated more than 1,400 ID theft investigations in FY13, according to the IRS. Its agents recommended prosecution of more than 1,250 individuals accused of being involved in identity theft crimes during that period.

The IRS' criminal investigators also were partners in more than 35 Identity Theft Task Forces that included federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies.

Most notably, the Tampa Bay Identity Theft Alliance was recognized as the "2013 Task Force of the Year," a national award given by the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators for investigative excellence and outstanding public service. The Florida-based group of crime fighters received national attention when they revealed that Tampa criminals found it more lucrative, and safer, to run tax cons than drugs.

"Individuals who commit identity theft demonstrate a blatant disregard of the integrity of the United States tax system and cause immeasurable hardship to innocent victims," said Richard Weber, Chief of Criminal Investigation, in a statement issued in conjunction with CI's annual report.

Crime-fighting efforts continuing: There's no shortage of work for CI agents. The crooks who perpetrate the tax scams on the IRS' annual Dirty Dozen list keep IRS and other law enforcement agents on their toes.

For the second consecutive year, identity theft topped the 2014 tax scam list. Two of the key ways that crooks commit tax-related identity theft, telephone scams and phishing, were second and third, respectively on the list.

Don't think it can't happen to you.

Halah Touryalai, a reporter with Forbes, recounts How An IRS Telephone Scam Nearly Duped Me Out Of $5,000.

You think you are calm, cool and collected until some well-prepared crook appears with a scheme to get your money by invoking the dreaded IRS. Just take a breath.

If you know or think you owe taxes, go straight to the source yourself. Call the IRS at 800-829-1040 and report the scam. Then work with real IRS employees to resolve any tax issue you might have.

And if you know you don't have any outstanding tax issues, report the scam by calling 800-366-4484.

Your information could help IRS criminal investigators put more tax crooks behind bars.

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