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IRS Unveils Data Security Initiative Aimed at Tax Preparers

Jul 7th 2016
Staff Writer and Editor AccountingWEB
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The IRS on July 6 rolled out its first fact sheet as part of a new public awareness campaign on data security that is aimed at tax professionals.

The “Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself” initiative is intended to raise awareness among practitioners on their responsibilities to protect their clients’ personal and financial information from cyberthieves and steps they can take to safeguard that data.

This new effort is an expansion of the Security Summit, a partnership between the IRS, state tax agencies, and the tax industry to combat tax-related identity theft and refund fraud.

“We have more than 700,000 tax preparers in this country, with many of those taking good security precautions,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a written statement. “But cybercriminals are continuing to evolve, using new technology, ruses, and scams. The tax community handles large volumes of sensitive personal and financial information. We need every tax professional to stay on top of their security to protect taxpayers, as well as their businesses.”

The fact sheet urges preparers to follow the security recommendations found in Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data. The fact sheet also outlines several steps that are necessary to protect taxpayer information and to build customer confidence and trust.

Some of those strategies include:

  • Assure taxpayer data, including data left on hardware and media, are never left unsecure.
  • Securely dispose of taxpayer information.
  • Require strong passwords (numbers, symbols, uppercase, and lowercase) on all computers and tax software programs.
  • Change passwords every 60 to 90 days.
  • Store taxpayer data in secure systems and encrypt information when transmitting across networks.
  • Ensure that email being sent or received that contains taxpayer data is encrypted and secure.
  • Make sure paper documents, computer disks, flash drives, and other media are kept in a secure location and restrict access to authorized users only.
  • Create a plan on required steps to notify taxpayers should you be the victim of any data breach or theft.

On June 28, Security Summit partners announced their 2017 initiatives to combat stolen identity refund fraud.

Related article:

IRS Takes New Steps to Combat Hackers and Scammers

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