IRS manages to make e-Services transition after all

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The Internal Revenue Service said Monday that it was able to transition most of its e-Services user applications to a new platform over the weekend, although it reiterated its warning Friday of delays in moving to new authentication technology.

In an email to tax professionals Monday, the IRS said most of its online user applications for e-File, Transcript Delivery Systems and the AIR Transmitter Control Code are now available.

“The transition of e-Services to a new platform was completed this weekend,” said the IRS. “This technology upgrade will mean an improved look and feel to the applications.”

However, state tax authorities will still have some trouble hooking into the federal e-Services with their own online apps.

“All users except for state users may now submit new or change existing applications,” the IRS warned. “Restoring state access to applications and to extracts is a priority. Meanwhile, states may submit critical changes by contacting their IRS Government Liaison.”

The IRS apologized for the delay in rolling out the long-promised upgrade to its online applications and said it would be bulking up its help desk to deal with inquiries.

“This technology upgrade took longer than anticipated,” said the IRS. “The IRS apologizes for the inconvenience this has caused. The IRS also has added additional personnel to the e-Help Desk to assist with applications questions and processing.”

However, the IRS noted that a warning it issued Friday about a delay in upgrading the authentication procedures for the e-Services is still in effect (see IRS still grappling with e-Services delay). “As a reminder, we announced on Friday that the move of e-Services to a new identity proofing process called Secure Access currently is on hold while we review vendor options,” said the IRS. “Please know that we are doing our best to upgrade our systems to make e-Services easier to use and more secure for you and your clients.”

The authentication delays are mostly due to a flap over a recently suspended $7.25 million non-bid contract with the credit bureau Equifax for identity verification. The contract came under sharp criticism when it was signed despite a massive data breach at Equifax that put the personal and financial information of more than 140 million people at risk (see IRS puts Equifax contract on hold).

The IRS has faced problems in recent years from data breaches in some of its e-Services, such as the Get Transcript and Identification Protection PIN apps, allowing cybercriminals to access taxpayer information and file fraudulent tax returns. The IRS needed to close the Get Transcript app in 2015 and the IP PIN app last year before adding improved authentication procedures last year (see IRS relaunches ‘Get Transcript’ app with better authentication and IRS restores IP PIN tool with improved authentication). It also had to close down the Data Retrieval tool for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid after discovering vulnerabilities this past tax season. The tool reopened this month (see IRS plans to reopen FAFSA student loan tool on October 1). However, the IRS is still seeking ways to improve user authentication and intends to provide the Secure Access identity proofing it promised in Monday’s email once it finds a new contractor to implement the technology who will prove to be less controversial than Equifax.

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Identity verification Identity theft protection Data breaches Tax tools Cyber security E-filing IRS Equifax