How IRS May Better Protect Taxpayer Data

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In an effort to better protect taxpayers’ personal information, the IRS has announced a new format for individual tax transcripts that will redact personally identifiable information from Form 1040s.

This new transcript replaces the previous format and will be the default format available via Get Transcript Online, Get Transcript by Mail or the Transcript Delivery System for tax professionals as of Sept. 23. Financial entries will remain visible, which will give taxpayers and third-parties the data they need for tax preparation or income verification.

Additionally, based on stakeholder feedback, the IRS also has created a new customer file number that lenders, colleges and other third parties that order transcripts for non-tax purposes can use as an identifying number instead of the taxpayer’s Social Security number.

“Since the IRS joined in partnership with the states and tax industry in 2015, we’ve made great progress in our effort to combat stolen identity refund fraud,” said Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter, in a prepared statement. “Our numbers are going in the right direction. To maintain our progress, we continue to evaluate our policies and procedures on an ongoing basis. One area that we identified as in need of change was the individual tax transcript area. We believe the change we are announcing today will better protect taxpayer data from unauthorized disclosure and theft.”

As the IRS has made inroads on identity theft and fraud, criminals need more taxpayer details to better impersonate their victims. That makes the tax transcript a sought-after document. Criminals attempt to pose as taxpayers accessing their own account or as tax preparers or third parties requesting client information.

The following information will be provided on the new transcript:

•           Last 4 digits of any SSN listed on the transcript: XXX-XX-1234

•           Last 4 digits of any EIN listed on the transcript:  XX-XXX-1234

•           Last 4 digits of any account or telephone number

•           First 4 characters of the last name for any individual

•           First 4 characters of a business name

•           First 6 characters of the street address, including spaces

•           All money amounts, including balance due, interest and penalties

On Sept. 23, the IRS also will post an updated Form 4506-T and Form 4506T-EZ, Request for Transcript of Tax Return that will have a new Line 5b for a 10-digit Customer File Number. Legitimate third parties with a need for income verification or tax data often request taxpayers complete a Form 4506-T.

As of Sept. 23, third parties or taxpayers can create any 10-digit number, except for the taxpayer’s Social Security number, to use as an identifier. The customer file number listed on the 4506-T automatically will be posted and visible on the requested tax transcript, allowing the third party to match the document to the taxpayer.

A customer file number can be, for example, a loan account number. Line 5b is an optional line, intended for those third parties that request high volumes of transcripts.

There is no change in the process for students seeking income verification through Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or disaster victims seeking FEMA assistance. Nor will business tax transcripts change.

See “About the New Tax Transcript: FAQs”[linkto] https://www.irs.gov/individuals/about-the-new-tax-transcript-faqs for additional details and to see a sample of the new transcript format.

About Terry Sheridan

Terry Sheridan

Terry Sheridan is an award-winning journalist who has covered real estate, mortgage finance, health care, insurance, personal finance, and accounting and taxation issues for newspapers, magazines, and websites. A Chicago native and former South Florida resident, she now lives in New England.

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