To make a long story short, the Internal Revenue Service is responsible for assigning Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs). ITINs are issued to those who are unauthorized to work in the U.S. However, a 2011 report from the Treasury Inspector General (TIG) showed that in 2010, $4.2 billion in tax credits nationwide were paid to those same people through the Child Tax Credit; those who eligible for this credit can receive up to $1,000 in tax credits per child. So, a person who is not authorized to work in the U.S. is nevertheless able to obtain a refund check from the American taxpayer, via the IRS.
Fast forward to 2013.
The TIG completed a report in 2012 that outlines problems with the IRS's review of ITIN applications. Among the many problems, TIG found that IRS personnel are inadequately trained to identify false or questionable documentation and identify patterns involving fraudulent tax refund claims. Additionally, a Questionable Identification Detection Team formed that would have properly handled fraudulent tax returns has been disbanded. Since the elimination of the team, the IRS’s management does not use application information to identify potential fraudulent schemes.
The TIG audited the IRS's data system to understand how to solve this problem. When the TIG analyzed the number of times the same mailing address was used on an ITIN application, it found that 154 mailing addresses were used 1,000 or more times on ITIN applications.
For example, 123456 Peachtree Street, Atlanta GA 30312 was listed as the contact address on 1,000 or more ITIN applications submitted to the IRS. Since we are using Atlanta as an example, from 2006-2011, 12,345 ITINs were granted to individuals using a single addresses. In 2011, at only four addresses in Atlanta, 41,272 tax refunds were issued that totaled over $54 million. Each refund averaged $1,308.
While over 20 million Americans and legal immigrants struggle with unemployment or underemployment, the IRS sends refund checks to those ineligible to work in the U.S.