Indiana’s Identity Protection Program – the Secret for Success

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As the 2016 individual tax season begins, we must be ever vigilant in protecting that most sensitive of information – taxpayers’ PII. As a 2014 Pew Research Center study clearly demonstrates, Americans have real concerns about the institutional security of their personal information. As government agencies, we hold significant personal information on our citizens. It is incumbent upon us to be responsible for its security. And the public is not comforted by continued announcements of data breaches at major corporations and government bodies. One significant statistic from a 2015 Pew study suggests only “6% of adults say they are ‘very confident’ that government agencies can keep their records private and secure, while another 25% say they are ‘somewhat confident.'”

As departments of revenue work to increase protections from identity theft and tax refund fraud, we often engage our taxpayers as part of the solution. In Indiana, we identified the epidemic of identity theft and tax refund fraud three years ago. We now engage our taxpayers as part of the solution, using tools that allow us to identify questionable, or suspicious, tax returns. When identified, taxpayers are asked to confirm their identities using an online, or optional telephonic, “identity confirmation quiz.”

This process is a positive step and key effort in helping us help taxpayers protect themselves, while at the same time protecting state revenues from tax refund fraud. Enlisting the assistance of every player in the system, including CPAs, Enrolled Agents, vendors, etc., we have communicated extensively with taxpayers about this process. As a result, we have seen significant successes with little public concern. Indeed, many taxpayers report appreciation that we are part of a solution, not a part of the problem!

The lesson?

  • Be a part of the solution,
  • be perceived as part of the solution,
  • and, engage your citizens by explaining what you are doing – and why.
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Robert Dittmer
Bob currently serves as the Deputy Commissioner for Tax Administration for the Indiana Department of Revenue. Prior to that he was the Director of Public Relations for the department for four years. Bob has more than 44 years experience in management, public relations, marketing and higher education. He has served as the Director of Media Relations for both an American government organization with responsibilities for all of Europe, as well as for NATO with responsibilities for public information management worldwide. Bob has more than 25 years experience in public relations and advertising agencies working for a wide variety of clients in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer sectors. Bob earned a B.A. from John Carroll University and an M.A. in Communication from Marshall University, and Accreditation from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). He was the 1998 President of the Hoosier PRSA Chapter, and served as Chair of PRSA’s national Association Section and as Chair of PRSA’s East Central District. He is currently on the board of the PRSA Government and Public Affairs Section and is a recipient of PRSA’s Lloyd B. Dennis Award for service in public sector public relations. Bob was elected to membership in the Indianapolis Public Relations Society in 1998.