* Federal prosecutors gain new authority for criminal tax
* Effort focuses on ID theft for tax refunds
WASHINGTON, Sept 18 The U.S. Justice Department
launched a new effort on Tuesday to combat identity theft used
to steal income tax refunds, granting federal prosecutors
authority to quickly arrest suspects.
Federal U.S. attorneys now need approval from the Justice
Department Tax Division before starting a prosecution in
criminal tax cases.
But the agency said that effective Oct. 1, attorneys may
bypass the Justice review process and authorize arrests
immediately in ID theft tax cases. Justice's Tax Division will
still need to review federal indictments for criminal tax cases,
the agency said.
The change is a "green light that U.S. attorneys have to
deal with this in a more-rapid response," said Mark Matthews, a
lawyer at Caplin & Drysdale and former head of the criminal
investigation division at the Internal Revenue Service.
In 2011, 641,052 taxpayers had their identities stolen, up
from 270,518 the previous year, according to IRS statistics
cited in a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax