Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman apologized to victims of identity theft for the rudeness of the IRS employees who dealt with their complaints.
Testifying before a House Subcommittee on Oversight and Government Reform, Shulman said, “We need to walk in each taxpayer’s shoes,” according to the Associated Press. He pledged to retrain employees on dealing with identity theft victims, and added, “We obviously need to do better.”
The committee heard from at least one of the same victims who testified during a Senate hearing last week on taxpayer identity theft about their experiences in dealing with rude IRS employees (see IRS Struggles to Control Taxpayer Identity Theft).
Taxpayer Sharon Hawa said, “After doing some investigative research I noticed these tax theft incidents started happening since the start of the millennium, making me wonder why the IRS seems so new and disorganized in handling the matter,” she said. “They continue to treat me as if I am the one to blame—adding even more stress to the situation.”
Another identity theft victim, LaVonda Rae Thompson, said, “I called to get some information on my case because they would not release it to the [police] detective and he wanted me to call and get it. I spoke with the most rude and discourteous person I have ever spoken with in my life. When I asked her about my case, she proceeded to yell and scream at me. When I asked for her name and ID number again because she said it so fast when she answered the telephone, the phone went silent. She had hung up the telephone.”
Luckily, when Thompson called back, the next person she spoke with at the IRS was much more sympathetic and apologized for the previous assistant.
Another victim, Lori Petraco, said she had visited an IRS office after she couldn’t reach anyone by phone to ask about her delayed tax refund. The customer service person loudly announced in front of the other people waiting in the office that she had been an identity theft victim, and asked her to provide her Social Security card and other personal information.
“Just seconds ago, this IRS employee proclaimed that I had been a victim of identity theft and was now asking me to recite, where others could hear, the same sensitive information she concluded had been stolen,” she said. Petraco was told that she would need to produce her driver’s license, file reports with the Federal Trade Commission, the Social Security Administration, and three credit bureaus, but that she should not expect to receive her tax refund for about eight or nine months.
“For most of us, the annual filing of income tax returns can be frustrating even in the best of years,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “But tax season can be even worse for the growing number of tax-related identity theft victims that are casualties of a system ill-equipped to deal with the increasing sophistication and proficiency of the modern scam artist.”