WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is asking the Justice Department why it appears to have prosecuted so few IRS impersonation scams, despite the vast prevalence of such crimes.

“This is a serious issue that demands a strong response,” Grassley wrote to Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates.  “Robust federal prosecution serves a critical role in deterring unlawful activities.  Despite the scope and prevalence of the IRS impersonation scam, however, the Department of Justice to date has prosecuted a very limited number of individuals for conduct related to these scams.”

Grassley said available information about such prosecutions has been scant, and one report indicates only a handful of them.  He sought a detailed accounting of the investigations and prosecutions of such scams and an explanation of why the crimes apparently have not been a greater priority for the Justice Department, despite their scope and prevalence.

Grassley noted that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration called the IRS impersonation scam “the largest, most pervasive impersonation scam in the history of (the) agency” and that Americans submit up to 14,000 complaints about these scams every week.  News reports say the scammers especially target older Americans “because they’re home, they’ll answer the phone and they often have the money to pay.”

Tax impersonation scams involve tricking individuals into paying the scammers money by pretending to be from the IRS, often using sophisticated tactics to come across as legitimate.  The IRS makes clear that it does not seek or take payment information by phone.  

Grassley asked for a response by April 11, before this year’s April 18 tax filing deadline.

Grassley’s letter is available here.

Earlier, Grassley released a tip sheet for avoiding tax scams and remedies for those who are targeted.