The Internal Revenue Service made a massive mistake that took months to be discovered. It exposed tens of thousands of taxpayers to potential identity theft and fraud by publicly posting their confidential information.
This is the same IRS that a liberal Congress just gave $80 billion to expand its workforce to wring every penny possible from taxpayers. Maybe it should focus on securing our private data first.
Conveniently just before Labor Day weekend last week, the IRS disclosed to a congressional committee chairman that it had inadvertently published the private information of 120,000 individual taxpayers online. They discovered the error and removed the sensitive information.
The leak was from Form 990-T, the business tax return used by private charities, government entities, and retirement accounts, to report and pay income tax on income from certain investments.
The IRS is required to publicly disclose information from charities. Still, data from non-501(c)3 entities that do not have such disclosure requirements were included.
Social security numbers and financial information were not leaked. However, full names and contact information were disclosed.
It took weeks before an IRS research employee discovered the leak prompting a wider investigation. The IRS blames a human coding error from a year prior when the form began to be electronically filed as the reason this happened.
The IRS collects vast amounts of sensitive personal and financial information on every taxpayer, business, and organization in our nation for the purposes of assessing tax liability. One of their most basic responsibilities is to ensure that private information is protected and handled with care.
The IRS has been hacked before. It’s a serious problem, but this is different in that someone at the IRS accidentally leaked this private information. The data lay fully available for anyone to access. Good questions that I hope someone in Washington is asking: How often was the webpage accessed? How often was information downloaded? By whom?
Like other basic functions such as customer service, the IRS has had significant problems. Unfortunately, those problems have yet to be resolved or fixed to ensure they don’t reoccur. Leaks erode the public’s trust in the IRS, but a lack of accountability for wrongdoing fuels the public’s outrage.
As the Wall Street Journal editorial board opined:
Recent history suggests accountability will come slowly, if ever. More than a year after untold numbers of tax filings somehow made it into the hands of the progressive site ProPublica, the agency has told Congress nothing about what happened, making corrective action impossible.
Accountability is important. How can taxpayers be assured that their private information would not be accidentally disclosed again unless those who did it are held responsible and corrective measures are put in place?
In the recently passed and misleadingly-named Inflation Reduction Act, Congress greenlighted a significant $80 billion to hire tens of thousands of new IRS agents. Based on how this funding is allocated, the goal is not to modernize aging IRS technology infrastructure or improve customer service. The whopping majority of the money is for enforcement (i.e. auditing taxpayers for uncollected tax revenue).
Liberals in Congress passed a sweeping, unfunded climate change bill. They think that by powering the IRS to go after tax cheats, they can raise enough revenue for their reckless spending spree. However, what the left calls tax cheating may just be strategically reducing tax liability. There may be fewer quarters in the couch cushions than they think.
The IRS has serious issues to address: protecting taxpayer privacy and customer service. Instead of launching new audits to wring every penny they can from hard-working Americans, they should ensure that our highly sensitive information is secure and that they will pick up the phone to answer a question instead of leaving callers on hold for hours (or days).