Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Measure Protecting Americans Against Identity Fraud Signed Into Law

Jan 21, 2016
Press Release
Legislation Safeguards Social Security Numbers on W-2 Tax Form

Florida Has Highest Identity Theft Rate in Nation

WASHINGTON — A sweeping new measure designed to safeguard the Social Security numbers of more than 100 million working Americans has been signed into law by President Obama, Congressman Vern Buchanan, FL-16, announced today.

Buchanan’s “Taxpayer Identity Protection Act,” rolled into the tax extenders bill, would allow employers to keep Social Security numbers off the most commonly used tax form, the W-2, which is a prime target of identity thieves. The tax extenders bill was signed by the President last month.

Buchanan’s announcement that his measure was signed into law comes as tax filing season opens this week across the nation.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) every employee that makes more than $600 in a year – the vast majority of the nation’s 150 million workers – receives a Form W-2, which they must file with their tax returns. Recent reports indicate that thieves are stealing these W-2s from people’s mailboxes to help them file fake returns and fraudulently claim tax refunds.

“This common-sense measure will help safeguard millions of Americans from the devastation of identity theft,” Buchanan said. “By limiting the use of Social Security numbers on tax forms we can help keep hardworking Americans’ personal information out of the hands of criminals.”

Buchanan’s bill takes millions of Social Security numbers out of circulation. Employers will be able to list only the last four digits of the number on a W-2.

Buchanan is urging the IRS to issue necessary guidance so employers and employees can use this provision immediately to protect workers from identity theft. 

Last year tax-related identity theft was listed as one of the “Dirty Dozen” tax scams by the IRS. Additionally, identity theft topped the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) national ranking of consumer complaints for the 15th consecutive year.

Treasury Department officials have testified before Congress warning that senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to tax-related identity theft where criminals file false tax returns using a victim’s Social Security Number. Seniors are attractive targets because they are more likely to have a “nest egg,” to own their home, and have good credit.

According to the FTC, Florida has the highest per capita rate of identity theft. Of the cities with the most identity theft complaints in 2014, 9 of the top 20 are in Florida. The FTC reports that more than 800 people in Sarasota, North Port and Bradenton logged complaints last year, earning the area the 39th spot on the agency’s list.