Georgia officials say they can save $20 million more each year by increasing the sophistication with which they crack down on people who report their taxes erroneously. In an economy such as the one in which we are caught now, a sum like this is all the more attractive, which explains why Georgia tax officials recently announced an effort to increase the scrutiny with which they examine people's tax returns.
Tax fraud is, of course, a white collar crime, but anyone who says they understand taxes completely is probably stretching the truth a little bit. Taxes are difficult and more than a little confusing and it can be hard to tell the difference between an innocent slip-up and a tax return completely inaccurately on purpose. An unintentional mistake can look an awful lot like tax fraud in some cases.
The Georgia Department of Revenue has purchased a new evaluating software that checks tax refund request against "billions" of identity record culled from public databases. The new service will cost between $2 and $3 million annually but is anticipated to save an additional $20 million each year by stopping fake tax returns.
In a trial run of the new software, 6 percent of returns were flagged as suspicious and about a third of those were ultimately deemed fraudulent. That means that two-thirds of people who found themselves under suspicion ultimately could not be proven guilty.
Although no one has a right to cheat the government by paying less than his or her fair share of taxes, we cannot forget that just because the Department of Revenue is asking questions does not mean someone is guilty of white collar crime. Software like the kind now used to scan tax returns is cold and impersonal; what it "sees" isn't necessarily always correct.
Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Georgia escalates fight against tax fraud," Paige Cornwell, June 11, 2012
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