Tue 11:27 a.m.: IRS takes steps to combat identity theft

WASHINGTON (AP) – The budget proposal to be released by the White House on Wednesday will include new steps to combat what the Internal Revenue Service says is an exponential growth in tax refund-related identity theft.

A preview of the measures provided by administration officials include increasing criminal sentences for those convicted of tax-related identity theft and creating new civil penalties for those who file fraudulent returns.

The government would also limit access to Social Security Administration files on deceased individuals that have been used for those seeking fraudulent refunds and removes Social Security numbers from some forms that employers must provide the IRS.

As of the end of 2012 the IRS had more than 3,000 employees, more than double from the previous year, working on identity theft issues.