Bramwell’s Lunch Beat: IRS Plans to Beef Up Security to Combat Identity Theftby
Regulator finds deficiencies in 11 audits done by Deloitte & Touche
The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) found deficiencies in 11 audits conducted by Deloitte & Touche LLP in its latest annual inspection of the Big Four accounting firm, wrote Michael Rapoport of the Wall Street Journal. The 11 deficient audits represent 21 percent of the 53 audits and partial audits reviewed by the board in its 2014 inspection report of Deloitte. In the PCAOB’s previous year’s report, the board found 15 deficient audits at Deloitte out of 53 surveyed, a 28 percent deficiency rate. The board focuses on audits it believes are at highest risk for problems, and the inspection results may not reflect how often a firm’s overall audit work is deficient. In a statement, Deloitte said it was “confident that the investments we have made and continue to make are resulting in significant enhancements to our audit quality.”
IRS takes step to tighten security for tax system
The IRS plans to announce an agreement, as soon as next week, with tax-preparation companies on ways to strengthen security of the tax system, wrote John D. McKinnon of the Wall Street Journal. Key lawmakers also said on Tuesday they would try to go further and push legislation to give the IRS more weapons to battle stolen-identity refund fraud. Last week, the IRS disclosed that identity thieves illegally obtained prior-year tax-return data for more than 100,000 households from an agency website. The criminals used personal data obtained elsewhere to gain access to the tax-return data, the IRS said. The new agreement between the IRS and the tax-preparation companies is expected to improve authentication of the people using tax-filing systems; to strengthen the industry’s ability to check for broad indications of fraud; and to communicate those trends to the IRS.
Watchdog: IRS failed to address computer security weaknesses
The IRS has failed to put in place dozens of security upgrades to fight cyberattacks, Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George told lawmakers on Tuesday, adding that those improvements would have made it “much more difficult” for hackers to gain access to the personal information of 104,000 taxpayers in the spring, wrote Lisa Rein of the Washington Post. “It would have been much more difficult if they had implemented all of the recommendations we made,” George told the Senate Finance Committee at a hearing on the data breach. George and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen also said the thieves are operating a worldwide criminal syndicate that originates not just in Russia but in many other countries. Internet security for the IRS has been the inspector general’s top concern since 2011. As of March, 44 security upgrades had not been completed, including vital security patches, George said. Ten of the recommendations were made more than three years ago.
Watchdog: Lerner report by end of month
Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George also mentioned during the Senate hearing on Tuesday that he expects to give lawmakers a final report on the Lois Lerner investigation by the end of the month, wrote Bernie Becker of The Hill. George said his office conducted almost 150 interviews as it sought to track down the former IRS official's emails. Senior lawmakers have said they needed the inspector general’s report on the thousands of Lerner's emails before finishing their investigation into the agency’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups. The IRS said last year that Lerner’s computer crashed in 2011, leaving them unable to reproduce an untold number of her emails over more than a two-year span. “As you can imagine, with each interview, that leads to more information that needs to be tracked down,” George told lawmakers. “Given the nature of this matter, we need to be as thorough as possible, and we’re endeavoring to do just that.”
House panel votes to repeal health law’s medical device tax
The House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday voted to repeal a 2.3 percent tax on many medical devices that helps pay for President Obama's healthcare overhaul, wrote Alan Fram of the Associated Press. The panel’s mostly party-line 25-14 vote came with Republicans complaining that the levy costs jobs and stifles innovation. Democrats say those claims are exaggerations and complained that Republicans have offered no savings to cover the $24.4 billion in lost revenue the repeal would cost over the coming decade. The GOP-led House has voted three times to repeal the medical device tax since it was enacted in 2010 and the Senate approved a repeal in 2013, though on a nonbinding vote. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced a repeal bill in his chamber that has garnered some Democratic support, but no vote has been scheduled.
IRS irks casinos, gamblers with pitch to cut jackpot tax threshold
The IRS says a $600 slot machine or bingo jackpot might get its attention in the future, and the prospect has riled gamblers and the casino industry, wrote Kimberly Pierceall of the Associated Press. The agency requires reporting on a single jackpot or win that's $1,200 or more for federal income-tax purposes. But it's floating the possibility of cutting that threshold in half. A reportable keno win also could be lowered. The threshold for that game is now $1,500. The IRS hasn't proposed lowering the tax threshold yet, but it suggested it might in the future and asked for public comment. As of Tuesday, the agency received more than 3,000 comments, with many opposed to the change. The American Gaming Association, which represents casinos and device manufacturers, is against the changes. It has said if the threshold is modified at all, it should be raised to about $5,000 to adjust for inflation.
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