No Foul Play Suggested, But IRS Tapes Still At Large

Kansas City officials are hot on the trail of 26 missing tapes containing sensitive taxpayer data. The tapes were provided by the IRS to aid in the city’s collection of its 1 percent earnings tax, a tax that is assessed on people living or working in the city. The 26 tapes were delivered last August and were supposed to be returned to the Treasury Department, but the return was never made. In fact, Kansas City officials have no record of ever having received the tapes and there is no record that the information on the tapes was ever reviewed.

While the IRS regularly shares information with Kansas City and hundreds of other jurisdictions around the country, this is the first time information was sent to Kansas City on tapes like the ones sent in August.

Kansas City Assistant City Manager Rich Noll learned of the missing tapes in December. Since that time an investigation into the loss has ensued with no results. Employee desks and other logical places have been searched.

Reading the information on the tapes requires specialized software that is not readily available and cannot be loaded on a typical laptop computer. The software that Kansas City uses is kept in a locked area.

The IRS has been unwilling to comment on the specific information that is recorded on the tapes, but typically information shared between the IRS and government agencies includes taxpayer names, Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, and perhaps employer information as well.

The U.S. House Government Reform Committee reported last fall that 788 cases of lost or compromised government data have occurred since January 2003. This amount doesn’t include the widely publicized losses of data by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in the last few years. It was a laptop containing sensitive data stolen from the VA office last year that triggered the committee investigation and report.

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