WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) marks the one-year anniversary of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act by pledging its continued commitment to investigating COVID-19 financial crimes and urging taxpayers to report suspected fraud.
Over the last year, IRS-CI has been combatting COVID-19 fraud related to the Economic Impact Payments, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Employee Retention Credit. The agency has investigated more than 350 tax and money laundering cases nationwide totaling $440 million. These investigations covered a broad range of criminal activity, including fraudulently obtained loans, credits and payments meant for American workers, families, and small businesses.
“This past year, the world has been trying to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to help American workers, families, and small businesses financially through this time, Congress passed the CARES Act. Unfortunately, many chose to abuse these programs, fraudulently submitting false claims and taking funds away from those who truly need it,” said Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson. “COVID-19 fraud related cases remain a top priority and we will continue to provide our financial expertise, working with our investigative partners, to hold those who exploit these relief programs accountable.”
“Over the past year, the global health pandemic has disrupted and tragically taken too many lives. It is also tragic that many criminals have sought to capitalize on COVID-19 by defrauding the U.S. government and fellow citizens,” said Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland has prioritized holding accountable those who are using the coronavirus pandemic to steal funds and personal information. Working with the IRS Criminal Investigation Division and other partners, we are pursuing these criminals, seizing fraudulent website domains, and doing what we can to ensure government relief funds go to law abiding citizens. We urge everyone to be vigilant, ask questions, and don’t become a victim.”
While abuses of the various CARES Act assistance programs have been limited in the overall administration of the law, some unscrupulous businesses and individuals have sought to enrich themselves through fraudulent activity. IRS-CI encourages the public to share information regarding known or suspected fraud attempts against any of the programs offered through the Cares Act.
To report a suspected crime, taxpayers may visit IRS.gov. If you think you are the victim of a fraud or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or e-mail at email@example.com.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was enacted on March 29, 2020, to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans suffering the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the Paycheck Protection Program. In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional funding, and in December 2020, another $284 billion.
The Paycheck Protection Program allows qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of 1%. Businesses must use PPP loan proceeds for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities. The PPP allows the interest and principal to be forgiven if businesses spend the proceeds on these expenses within a set time period and use at least a certain percentage of the loan towards payroll expenses.
To learn more about COVID-19 scams and other financial schemes visit IRS.gov. Official IRS information about COVID-19 and Economic Impact Payments can be found on the Coronavirus Tax Relief page, which is updated frequently.