Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wall Street Journal, First-Time Fraudsters: A Tax Credit So Silly Even a Four-Year-Old Can Exploit It:
It's hard not to laugh when viewing the results of the federal first-time home-buyer tax credit. The credit, worth up to $8,000 for the purchase of a home, has only been available since April of last year. Yet news of the latest taxpayer-funded mortgage scam has traveled fast. The Treasury's inspector general for tax administration, J. Russell George, recently told Congress that at least 19,000 filers hadn't purchased a home when they claimed the credit. For another 74,000 filers, claiming a total of $500 million in credits, evidence suggests that they weren't first-time buyers.
Among those claiming bogus credits, at least some of them were definitely first-timers. The credit has already been claimed by 500 people under the age of 18, including a four-year-old. This pre-K housing whiz likely bought because mom and dad make too much to qualify for the full credit, which starts to phase out at $150,000 of income for couples, $75,000 for singles.
As a "refundable" tax credit, it guarantees the claimants will get cash back even if they paid no taxes. A lack of documentation requirements also makes this program a slow pitch in the middle of the strike zone for scammers. The IRS and the Justice Department are pursuing more than 100 criminal investigations related to the credit, and the IRS is reportedly trying to audit almost everyone who claims it this year.
Speaking of the IRS, apparently its own staff couldn't help but notice this opportunity to snag an easy $8,000. One day after explaining to Congress how many "home-buyers" were climbing aboard this gravy train, Mr. George appeared on Neil Cavuto's program on the Fox Business Network. Mr. George said his staff has found at least 53 cases of IRS employees filing "illegal or inappropriate" claims for the credit. ...The program is set to expire at the end of November, so naturally given its record of abuse, Congress is preparing to extend it. Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia is so pleased with the results that he wants to expand the program beyond first-time buyers and double the income limits.