Concerns raised over personal information needed for taxi coupons
Henderson, NV (KTNV) -- Seniors who apply for a discounted taxi cab program through the state are now being asked for some personal information, including Social Security numbers.
Some are wondering what happens to that information after they hand it over.
The Taxi Assistance Program is administered by Nevada's Aging and Disability Services Division. Approved users can purchase a $20 book of taxi coupons for a discounted price of $10. For some, the program is the only way to get to medical appointments or errands.
"The people who are using it love it," said Henderson resident Phyllis Miller, who applied for the program.
But starting last fall, Miller learned she had to fill out IRS form 4506-T as part of the application. She knew it was not a scam, but said she was surprised to see the personal information requested on the form, such as Social Security number and tax identification numbers.
"We still don't really know who is working for them and how many people see this Social Security number with our names and address and who it goes through before it gets to the proper channel," said Miller.
In the past, eligibility was based on age and disability status. Action News learned the state is now using the form to verify income, making sure only the neediest people are using the program. Miller said she is not opposed to this, but she thinks the agency should also consider other factors that impact someone's income.
"Many people are supporting children or grandchildren," said Miller. "I happen to personally know more than one person who has their grandchildren living with them. That's a definite added expense."
The agency sold roughly 40,000 books during the 2012 fiscal year, which are partially supported by taxi surcharges, according to the division. Still, the state said the form 4506-T is a fair and accurate way to verify someone's income.
"Basically, based on your income, is the number of coupon books you'll be eligible for," said Jeff Duncan, chief of supportive services for the division.
The division said new income limits are set at $45,960 per year for single applicants and $62,040 for couples. Duncan said the agency's staff went through special training to learn how to handle the sensitive information on the forms and take extra steps to protect it.
"Any time the form is submitted, we obviously submit that to the IRS and then we keep all the documentation locked behind a door here that's not accessible to the public," Duncan said.
Eventually, the agency said the paperwork is shredded.
The agency estimates the number of booklets sold during the 2013 fiscal year will drop by about 6,000 because of the new requirements. Duncan said the state will work with seniors who no longer qualify to fin other programs they may be able to use.