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Fraud attempts keep Department of Revenue hopping
Commissioner Lynne Riley discusses tax fraud during Effingham Day at the Capitol on Jan. 28. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

ATLANTA — Rep. Bill Hitchens introduced her as “a little lady with a big job.”

“Big” is right. 

Lynne Riley is the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Revenue, the principal tax collecting and tax law enforcement agency for the state. It also administers motor vehicle license plate and title registration.

 “Thank you very much for paying your taxes and complying with all the laws of the State of Georgia,” Riley joked during a Jan. 28 Effingham Day at the Capitol speech at Floyd Towers. “The department processes over eight million unique tax returns each year. We collect over $30 billion each year. We return five or six billion of that back to local governments for the things that you do with those sales taxes.

“We register and renew over 10 million vehicles each year in partnership with county governments.”

Riley’s department is also responsible for enforcing laws and regulations pertaining to the control of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.

“Every once in awhile, we will still bust a moonshiner,” she said. “Believe it or not, they still operate out there.  They should know better by now in this day and age but periodically we will have to take down a still out in the backwoods somewhere. We’ve had them as close as counties fairly close to the metro Atlanta area.”

The department features 1,100 employees.

“We stay really busy,” she said. “There are lots of things going on. As you can hear, we bring those billions of dollars in for the General Assembly to appropriate for all those great purposes.”

Riley said efforts to defraud Georgia taxpayers is one of her department’s chief concerns.

“I think many of you who were here in previous years when I have spoken heard me talk about the many challenges we have of folks trying to get into the treasury by pretending to be someone they are not,” she said. “Unfortunately, they are getting smarter as we put up defenses against the schemes that we see. We are constantly having to evolve.”

Riley cited a criminal who started a fraudulent business and enticed some of his friends to allow him to use their identities to create a fake payroll. He then stole the bank account information of his customers so that he could make fraudulent deposits with the Department of Revenue for withholding and sale tax.

“And he turned right around and tried to get refunds on it for overpayment,” Riley said. “Thankfully, our system caught it immediately. We knew exactly what was going on but we watched it a little bit. When he got to the $20 million greedy point where he wanted to get that much money back from the Department of Revenue, the local police department went and paid him a visit.”

Riley encouraged her listeners to call the Department of Revenue Tax Fraud Hotline (1-877-423-6711) if they suspect tax wrongdoing.

“We sure want to know about it because we want to put a stop to it,” she said.