U.S. Prisoners Using Tax Returns to Steal from I.R.S.

This amuses me to no end. Apparently prisoners in the United States are ripping off the IRS for millions from behind bars.

Witnesses, including an anonymous inmate serving time in a South Carolina corrections facility, said prisoners use a variety of tactics to cheat the tax system. Schemes include filing false tax returns using stolen Social Security numbers, filing false forms, or claiming tax credits to which the prisoners were not entitled, [IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Nancy J.] Jardini said. The inmate said that , he filed between 600 and 700 false returns for himself and fellow inmates, of which about 90 percent successfully resulted in refunds. The total amount he claimed in refunds was approximately $3.5 million, he said.

Inmates often use accomplices outside of the prison system to carry out their schemes, witnesses said. In fact, according to Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla., one person recently indicted for helping prisoners commit tax fraud was an IRS employee.

The IRS says that it thinks as much as 15% of “tax fraud” is committed by prisoners.

J. Russell George, the Treasury Department’s inspector general for taxation, said IRS figures show that the number of fraudulent tax returns filed by prisoners quadrupled from 4,300 in to 18,000 .

“Of particular concern is the fact that the IRS frequently pays refunds on returns it has identified as fraudulent,” George said. “In , the IRS paid 36,000 refunds on returns that it determined to be fraudulent; 4,100 of these were issued to prisoners.”

A good op-ed piece by Brendan O’Neill from the Christian Science Monitor, excerpts below:

Memo to those who opposed the war in Iraq: Please stop talking about the Downing Street memos! And I say that not as a defender of the war, but as one who was implacably set against it.

The antiwar lobby’s obsession with secretive things — whether it’s these latest memos, earlier dodgy dossiers, or rumors about who said what to whom in the backrooms of the White House and Whitehall — degrades the debate about war.

Instead of mounting a serious opposition to the invasion of Iraq, antiwar activists have spent the last two years searching endlessly for proof that they and their fellow citizens were lied to. They’ve seemed more intrigued by the decision-making processes that led to the war than outraged by the war itself.…

The Downing Street Memos are but another chapter in — or perhaps even the climax of — this ongoing saga.…

Antiwar activists have relentlessly scrutinized this and subsequent memos, gloating over their finds. According to one antiwar website, “The [memo] reveals gross duplicity in the actions of both governments.”

I find this creepy fascination with confidential communications irritating for three reasons:

First, you would have to be spectacularly naive to be shocked that powerful governments in the West had tinkered with the truth in order to launch a war. From the Gulf of Tonkin claims in Vietnam to the story about Kuwaiti babies being tossed from incubators in the run-up to the Gulf War of , governments on the verge of war have always been less than honest.

It’s been nearly 90 years since US Senator Hiram Johnson purportedly said, “The first casualty when war comes is truth,” yet antiwar activists still seem to think that “Bush lied!” counts as a groundbreaking revelation.…

So much energy has been expended on digging for dirt there is none left for offering a genuine alternative to Western military intervention abroad. Antiwar activists should be ashamed of themselves: Their petty obsessions have detracted from the debate we really need.

If you are against war, then forget about the Downing Street memos. The debate about war should be political and moral, not legalistic; we should interrogate the consequences of war for those on the receiving end, and for peace more broadly — not get hung up over what some British official wrote on a piece of paper.

In short, we need a political opposition to war — because, , we still don’t have one.

The problem seems to be that a lot of people who are against the war are looking for the easy, quick fix. They want to be able to pull a lever in a voting booth and then a new set of politicians will fix the problem. Or they want to point out some smoking gun and then the press and a newly-enraged and scandal-hungry public will do the job. Or they want to find some sort of “proof” of “illegality” in how the war was started or conducted, whereupon some currently nonexistent sovereign global legal authority (or perhaps God Almighty) will punish the wrongdoers and set things right.

They beg the Congress for impeachment proceedings in the hopes that Congress, of all things, will — I dunno — put Cheney in charge or something useful like that. (Remember how the anti-war movement evaporated during the election campaign last year? Imagine what an impeachment hearing would do.)

They, by and large, are trying to avoid the hard work of using their own power and throwing their entire weight behind their outrage. Polls are showing that an increasing majority of the American people say that they oppose the war in Iraq. I’ll wager that 99% of them are lying.