Lessons from the Public Hearing of 4 March 2014
I was privileged to participate in the public meeting Monday, March 4, 2014, in person with representatives of other vitally interested stakeholders, along with 111 remote participants via the World Wide Web. My testimony on that day relied heavily upon our analysis of an earlier version of what was to become Section 203 of the Bipartisan Budget Act reflected in the RPAC Feedback on the Tax Administration Reform Discussion Draft submitted to the Senate Finance Committee on January 17, 2014 and made a part of the administrative record of this process as the last item posted at http://www.ntis.gov/pdf/rfi-comments.docx. Additional comments were also provided by several individual genealogists and genealogical organizations and providers.
As reflected in the transcript at http://www.ntis.gov/products/dmf-transcript2014.aspx my initial remarks challenge the premise upon which Section 203 is based, namely that limiting access to the Death Master File was a necessary measure to thwart the filing of fraudulent tax returns by thieves claiming the identities of recently deceased children. I asserted that even if thieves had acquired the SSNs of deceased persons from the DMF, if they then tried to take out a mortgage or bank loan, buy a car, open a credit card or charge account, or acquire telephone service at their apartment, THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN REJECTED. All of these potential creditors would have used the DMF themselves to verify that the SSNs did not belong to a person already authoritatively reported to be deceased. In 2011, if the thieves were using the DMF, the IRS clearly WAS NOT (but we argue should have been!) According to the testimony of the then acting IRS Commissioner before the Senate Finance Committee on the 16th of April 2013, for Tax Year 2012 the IRS had implemented filters that should have improved their ability to intercept fraudulent tax returns before they were processed for payment. http://www.finance.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=62739085-5056-a032-5281-4500bf4d4fb3
The vulnerability to the filing of fraudulent tax returns by identity theft rests at the IRS. It is not the result of making the “burned” SSNs of deceased persons publicly available in the DMF. The authors of this proposal should not claim to be effectively protecting us from identity theft by restricting access to this resource. IRS vulnerabilities have recently been getting more attention: http://www.grassley.senate.gov/issues/upload/Grassley-to-IRS-Return-Review-Program-4-21-14.pdf
After all who had signed up to speak had done so, the last hour of the public hearing was devoted to having the attendees respond to questions posed by the NTIS representatives hosting the event. Among the topics addressed: http://www.ntis.gov/pdf/2014dmf-transcript.pdf
- Alternatives to the DMF pp.45-58
- With all its flaws, DMF best resource currently available.
- Ms. Yohe of the College of Thoracic Surgeons at p.52 lists as criteria: definition, timeliness, costs
- My comments at pp. 53-56
- Alarm that DMF being incrementally dismantled.
- Pleas for a more comprehensive DMF p.64
- Addressed distinctions between “use” and “disclosure” pp.58-59
- Third party/subscriber access pp.75-79
Colleagues are invited to review my extemporaneous responses to the questions posed by the NTIS representatives hosting the public hearing and offer any suggestions by email to email@example.com on how they might be improved.
Much more to come
UPDATED LINKS TO ORAL AND WRITTEN COMMENTS: http://www.ntis.gov/products/ssa-dmf/# Scroll down to paragraph entitled “Previous Requests for Comments.”