08 July 2006

Do We Need A Law?

Governor Owens offered up on July 5, the day before the special session began, a press release on social security numbers presented to multiple employers, designed to address the prevailance of "identity borrowing".

Colorado Department of Labor and Employment executive director Rick Grice announced the Department's findings in two studies conducted over the past year. In the third quarter of 2005, the Department recorded 2,249 instances where employers reported a Social Security number that was used six or more times. One number in particular was provided by 50 different employers.

During the first quarter of 2006, the number grew larger still, with 368 Social Security numbers filed more than six times by 2,828 employers. One number was reported by 57 different employers.

It looks like, with existing databases under existing law, it isn't that hard to track down this particular practice. Providing a fraudulent taxpayer ID number was already a crime. It is simply a matter of allocating staff, a quintessentially executive branch issue. And, if you allocate even a couple of staff members to conduct audits, the word quickly gets out that this practice will be caught, and with a bit of publicity, no one will do it on an organized basis. Moreover, in all likelihood, a little digging will reveal that a significant share of questionable cases are connected and part of a single operation, which can result in a single investigation resolving many cases.

So, why does the Governor want new laws, when the existing ones work? Wouldn't he have been better off doing what the Democrats suggested at the outset? Why not use money spent on legislation in the special session on immigration enforcement instead?

Also, this press release shows that identity borrowing isn't a huge problem in Colorado. There are about 250,000 illegal immigrants in Colorado. Even if every repeat social security number is an illegal immigrant, this particular practice involves only 1% of that population. It isn't a common place practice or a crisis.

Indeed, this group of illegal immigrants, if this is who they are, are particularly untroublesome as withholding taxes based on someone else's social security number means that taxes are still being paid.

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