IRS increasing identity theft prosecutions

The IRS said Thursday it was stepping up its game when it comes to identity theft, with almost 1,900 open investigations right now.

With Tax Day almost here, the IRS said it had started 295 new identity theft investigations this year. The agency's criminal investigations unit has also spurred more recommendations for prosecution, indictments and sentencing hearings, the IRS said.

“Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes nationwide, and refund fraud caused by identity theft is one of the biggest challenges facing the IRS,” John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, said in a statement. 

"We are making substantial progress in refund fraud protection, and the work by CI highlights the important steps we are taking.”

In all, the IRS has made 272 prosecution recommendations this year and 221 indictments.

Federal watchdogs like the Government Accountability Office have said in recent years that the IRS doesn't know how frequently identity theft happens, or the full extent of how much it costs taxpayers or the government.

But the IRS noted Thursday that it's been much more aggressive on the identity theft front in recent years. 

The agency started almost 1,500 criminal investigations in fiscal 2013, about two-thirds more than in the previous year. The IRS also had more than twice as many prosecution recommendations (1,257) in 2013 than the year before, and almost twice as many sentencing (438).