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Phil Simon

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Using Basic Data to Foil Tax Scammers

Thoughts on how little the IRS knows about Data 101.
Sep | 22 | 2014

irsPlenty of people believe that the IRS is incompetent, but I didn’t realize how little the organization understands about basic data.

Last night’s 60 Minutes segment on identify tax fraud drilled the point home. Sure, people have always tried to avoid paying taxes and looked for as many loopholes as possible. Those are givens. It’s obvious to me, though, that the highest levels of the organization are oblivious to the power of data to at least minimize these problems.

Heads should roll.

Sending 40 different refund checks to the same freaking address? You must be ‘shrooming. How is that not a basic audit report/alert? A college student could write a simple COUNT statement to alleviate the issue, but the top brass at the IRS doesn’t seem too concerned here.

Heads should roll.

Simon Says

It’s evident to me that many agencies are making progress with Big Data. Kudos to them. It’s also entirely clear that most have a long ways to go. Not asking basic questions is costing US taxpayers billions of dollars each year. We may not be able to eliminate fraud, but we are sure as hell not doing very much to stop it. We should be making our data work for us.


What say you?

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  1. Jeremiah Hopkins

    I imagine that many government agencies could benefit from some better BI and a little Lean thinking. Big organizations adapt slowly, with many parts of the human organization operating like the disparate file processing systems they run on. If you’ve ever worked for a large company that has weathered the storm, or attended a state university perhaps, then now think about a 235 year old institution with close to 3 million employees.

    As smart citizens, I think we should stop, scoff for a moment, learn a lesson, and go on… hopefully a little bit wiser. Thanks for the post. More people should be advocating for responsible intelligence and the means to achieve it. Cheers!

    • Phil Simon

      No argument here. I know all too well about the inability of large organizations to take advantage of what’s in front of them.


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