Tax security was on the mind at the Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners today as they kicked off a summertime security awareness campaign for tax professionals with a new, expanded guide providing critical steps to protect client data and highlighting available resources. The new effort by the IRS for tax security, along with state tax agencies and the nations private sector tax industry follows continued security threats to tax and financial data held by tax professionals. Data thefts at tax practitioners offices continue to rise and result in fraudulent tax returns that can be especially difficult for the IRS and states to detect.
The new emphasis on tax security marks the first time a series called “Protect your Clients: Protect yourself: Tax Security 101.” The Security summit awareness campaign is intended to provide tax professionals with the basic information they need to better protect taxpayer data and to help prevent the filing of fraudulent tax returns. The series builds on and expands on earlier summit awareness campaigns aimed at tax professionals and taxpayers. In addition, this campaign follows recommendations made by the Electronic Tax Administration Advisory Committee in June, which noted tax professionals “Are at increasing risk” of security vulnerability.
Although the Security Summit effort is making progress against tax related identity theft, cyber criminals continue to evolve, and data thefts at tax professionals offices are on the rise. Thieves use stolen taxpayer data to create fraudulent returns that are harder to detect. Identity thieves are technically sophisticated, helped by well funded and tax savvy criminal syndicates based here and abroad. The importance of these basic steps was highlighted yet again this year when a sophisticated cyber criminal gang breached numerous practitioner offices by gaining remote control access of computers and stealing taxpayers 2016 tax information. The thieves used that information to file 2017 tax returns using all the taxpayer real data, including their bank accounts for direct deposit.