NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — More than 1,200 prison inmates, including 241 serving life sentences, defrauded the government of $9.1 million in tax credits reserved for first-time homebuyers, according to a Treasury Department report released Wednesday.
Treasury’s inspector general also found that thousands of people filed multiple claims or made claims outside the allotted time period. In all, more than $28 million was improperly doled out. The Internal Revenue Service program at issue is meant to stimulate the housing market by giving tax credits of as much as $8,000 to qualifying first-time home buyers.
“Additional controls are necessary to address erroneous claims for the credit,” the report stated. “Further, fraudulent and questionable claims processed prior to implementation of controls will need follow-up action by the IRS.”
According to the report, 4,608 state and federal inmates filed for these tax credits, and that fraudulent refunds were doled out to 1,295 of them. The inspector general’s report said the most “egregious” fraudsters were 715 prison lifers, including 174 who filed with the help of paid preparers. From this group, 241 lifers were awarded $1.7 million. The problem was particularly bad in Florida: 61% of the lifers who got credits were incarcerated in the Sunshine State.
The homebuyer tax credit program was very specific about the time period in which homebuyers were allowed to participate, though this rule seems to be the most widely violated. The credit was for home purchases that happened after April 8, 2008, with a cut-off date that was eventually extended to May 1, 2010.
The report found that the IRS awarded $17.6 million to 2,555 filers who had bought their homes before the credit program kicked in.
The inspector general also identified 206 filers who claimed the credit for multiple addresses; these fraudulent filers were awarded a total of $1.4 million.
The report also found that improper filers included 34 employees of the IRS. This is in addition to 53 IRS employees that the inspector general identified last year as improper filers.