Here is a possible approach to deter the identity theft tax refund fraud that is costing our government so much money.
Every individual who files a tax return should be required to have a tax number in addition to his or her Social Security number. When one files a tax return, the space for inserting one’s Social Security number will continue to be in the same location. When the tax return is signed, however, the taxpayer will be required to insert his or her tax number (numbers, if a joint return) in a space below the signature. The IRS will not refer to this number unless the tax return reflects an overpayment. In its procedure for issuing a tax refund, the IRS will check that the Social Security number and the taxpayer number belongs to the same person, or persons, if a joint tax return is filed.
Unlike the Social Security number, which is used on many occasions for identification, the tax return number is used only when dealing with the IRS. That should minimize the chances of identity fraud.
This is only a conceptual recommendation. The details, such as how and when the individual receives and cancels (on death) his or her taxpayer ID, will need to be addressed in putting this idea into its final form.