IRS beefs up tax pro security on Practitioner Priority Service

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The Internal Revenue Service plans to ask tax professionals additional questions before providing them with assistance as part of its efforts to improve security.

In an email to tax professionals Friday, the IRS said it is continuing to review its procedures to better protect sensitive taxpayer data. As part of that effort, it will be request additional information from tax professionals who call its Practitioner Priority Service or any other toll-free IRS telephone number.

“This procedural change will require tax practitioners to provide personal information so that IRS customer service representatives may confirm their identities,” said the IRS. “This additional information may include data such as your Social Security number and your date of birth. This personal information, in addition to the Centralized Authorization File (CAF) number, is necessary to verify the identity of the person to whom the IRS releases taxpayer information.”

The IRS noted that it has also made an update to Form 2848, Power of Attorney, and Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization, that will require tax professionals to tell their clients if they are using an Intermediate Service Provider to access their clients’ transcripts through the Transcript Delivery System. A box will now need to be checked if the tax pro is using a third party.

The IRS is defining “Intermediate Service Providers” as privately owned companies that offer subscriptions to their software and/or services that the taxpayer’s authorized representative can use to retrieve, store, and display tax return data (personal or business) instead of obtaining tax information directly from the IRS. The IRS noted that it must know who is using these tools, and taxpayers need to know when a party other than their authorized representative is involved in accessing their sensitive data.

There have been a number of changes for tax professionals in recent weeks, the IRS acknowledged, and each of them is supposed to enhance the protections for tax pros and their clients.

“Unfortunately, business as usual is no longer an option,” said the IRS. “Cybercriminals are well-funded, persistent and adept at stealing data from outside the IRS and using it to file fraudulent tax returns. As cybercriminals evolve, so must the IRS.”

As part of those efforts, the IRS has also beefed up some of the protections for its IRS e-Services. The IRS is urging e-Services account holders to immediately upgrade their accounts through a new two-factor identity verification process. Some tax professionals might need to complete the process by mail, and that could add an extra 10 days or more to the process. The IRS is asking tax professionals not to wait until the beginning of tax filing season or until they have an urgent need for one of the e-Services tools before updating their accounts.

In the future, the IRS also plans to ask each e-Services user to sign a new user agreement to make sure all tax professionals understand their security obligations. The information will be shared in advance, the IRS warned.

“Protecting you and your clients from identity theft is paramount to the IRS,” said the IRS. “But your help and your understanding are needed as we continue to review and enhance security procedures.”

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Identity verification Identity theft protection Tax practice Cyber security IRS