The Internal Revenue Service is postponing a security upgrade to its e-Services for tax professionals in a new setback for the agency.

The IRS said in an email to tax professionals Friday that a new implementation date for the security upgrade has not been set. Last month, the IRS told tax professionals they would need to re-register using a new Secure Access authentication process by October 24 (see E-Services Users Must Re-Register, IRS Warns).

The IRS has suffered security problems with several of its online services in recent years, including with its Get Transcript service for downloading transcripts of prior tax returns and IP PIN service for providing a personal information number for victims of identity theft.

The agency needed to take down the services temporarily before bringing them back online with enhanced authentication capabilities to defeat identity thieves (see IRS Relaunches ‘Get Transcript’ App with Better Authentication and IRS Restores IP PIN Tool with Improved Authentication).

In August, the IRS warned tax professionals to monitor their Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN, for signs of suspicious activity (see IRS Advises Tax Pros to Monitor Their PTINs). The new authentication process for accessing e-Services was supposed to provide additional security to verify the identity of tax professionals. However, the upgrade is now being delayed indefinitely.

“To ensure a smooth transition, the IRS has decided to delay the October 24 date for requiring e-Services users to re-register and validate their identities through Secure Access authentication,” the IRS said in its Friday e-mail. “In the next few weeks, the IRS plans to have discussions with key stakeholders affected by the e-Services changes to discuss security protocols and next steps in this process. A new implementation date has not been set. When a new date is set, the IRS will share the information widely with e-Services users. The IRS is strengthening the e-Services registration process as part of a wider effort to ensure the protection of taxpayer data and IRS systems.”

The IRS has been partnering since last year with tax software providers, major tax prep chains and tax preparer organizations, along with state tax authorities on a Security Summit initiative to address identity theft and tax fraud issues. The changes in the e-Services registration process would have had an impact on some of these partners.

The IRS has set up a Protect Your Clients, Protect Yourself page on IRS.gov to provide more information on identity theft scams targeting the tax professional community. The page includes links to a publication on Safeguarding Taxpayer Data, along with security alerts and educational videos. The IRS also recently did a webinar, “Protect your Clients, Protect Yourself from Data Theft,” which can now be viewed on demand. In the webcast, IRS officials and experts from the private sector talk about safeguards on client data, legal requirements and best practices for handling taxpayer data, and they offer tips on responding to taxpayer data breaches.

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