710,000 Affordable Care Act Tax Credit Recipients Didn’t File Tax Returns

Approximately 710,000 taxpayers who received the Advanced Premium Tax Credit for buying health insurance last year have not filed their tax returns or filed for an extension.

In a letter to Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, IRS commissioner John Koskinen said the IRS is contacting the taxpayers to remind them of their obligation.

“Approximately 710,000 of the taxpayers with APTC have not yet filed a tax return and have not filed an extension, as required,” he wrote last Friday. “As one part of our post-compliance strategy, we are sending letters to taxpayers who had APTC paid on their behalf who have not yet reconciled and who did not file an extension to remind them of their obligation to file a tax return. Under regulations issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, taxpayers must meet this obligation in order to maintain their eligibility for APTC to help pay for Marketplace coverage in 2016. We are urging these taxpayers to file an electronic tax return to reconcile their APTC within 30 days. We will follow up with these taxpayers as appropriate.”

In response to the letter, Hatch called on the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, J. Russell George, to examine the use of the tax credits, noting that the 710,000 people had probably received more than $2.4 billion in Advanced Premium Tax Credit payments.

In a letter to Inspector General George, Hatch reiterated his ongoing concern regarding the integrity of APTC payments and outlined his request for an examination of a large sample of individuals who received a government subsidy and failed to submit a tax return.

“A critical element in safeguarding the integrity of insurance subsidies is the reconciliation process that occurs when taxpayers file their tax returns and reconcile subsidies received versus the amount they were in fact due,” Hatch wrote Monday in a letter to George. “While it is likely that not all of these are fraudulent, because of the Marketplace’s lax integrity controls there is reason to believe that a significant portion could be.”

Hatch’s letter comes on the heels of a Senate Finance Committee hearing that included testimony from an official with the Government Accountability Office who found as part of an undercover investigation that the federal exchange approved 11 out of 12 telephone and online applications for fictitious applicants (see Fake Applicants Received Tax Credits for Health Insurance). As a result, the federal government paid $2,500 per month, or $30,000 per year, in credits for insurance policies for these fictitious individuals.

IRS Phone Scam Ringleader Gets 14-Year Sentence

A scammer who organized a scheme in which taxpayers were threatened with calls purporting to come from the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI demanding payment has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Sahil Patel was sentenced to 175 months in prison and $1 million in forfeiture for his role in organizing the U.S. side of a massive fraud and extortion ring run through various “call centers” located in India, through which Patel and his co-conspirators impersonated American law enforcement officials and threatened victims with arrest and financial penalties unless those victims made payments to avoid purported charges.

In addition to the prison sentence, Patel, 36, of Tatamy, Pa., was sentenced to three years of supervised release.

Patel pleaded guilty in January 2015 before U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, who imposed the sentence Wednesday. “The nature of this crime robbed people of their identities and their money in a way that causes people to feel they have been almost destroyed,” said Hellerstein.

According to prosecutors, from Dec. 2011 through the day of his arrest on Dec. 18, 2013, Patel participated as a leader in a sophisticated scheme to intimidate and defraud hundreds of innocent victims of hundreds of dollars apiece. Throughout the course of the fraud, telephone call centers located in India hired English-speaking employees to place telephone calls to individuals living in the U.S.

Armed with long lists of potential victims, referred to by Patel and his co-conspirators as “lead sheets,” those India-based callers systematically placed thousands of calls to individuals in the U.S. in the hopes of intimidating the call recipients into providing a payment to the co-conspirators. To extort these victims, the India-based callers impersonated law enforcement officials of the FBI and IRS and threatened their victims with financial penalties and arrest in connection with fabricated financial crimes.

“Sahil Patel’s elaborate scheme involved impersonating law enforcement officers and using intimidation and fear to bilk over a million dollars from hundreds of unsuspecting victims,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement.

In order to receive funds in a manner that would mask the identity of Patel and his co-conspirators, the ring undertook several measures to anonymize itself, including by using anonymized voice-over-internet technology, which was subscribed under fraudulent names in order to give the appearance of being related to U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Patel and his co-conspirators also used several layers of wire transactions in order to conceal the destination and nature of the extorted payments, which totaled at least $1.2 million.

The scam has been continuing and on the rise this year despite Patel’s arrest. Taxpayers who have been targeted by the scam can report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at www.tigta.gov and clicking on the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting tab in the upper right corner, or call the TIGTA hotline at 1-800-366-4484 FREE.