The Internal Revenue Service has begun a new campaign to make tax preparers more aware of security risks that could expose their clients to identity theft and tax fraud.
The new public awareness campaign follows up on an initiative announced last month at the IRS’s Security Summit meeting with representatives from some of the major tax prep chains, tax software companies and state tax authorities. The initiative is focusing first on educating tax preparers about cyber risks and is expected to evolve into a set of security standards for them to follow (see IRS Plans to Set Security Standards for Tax Preparers).
The IRS has been struggling to stop a wave of identity theft-related tax fraud as organized criminals come up with new ways to defeat the IRS’s efforts to secure its systems. In addition to improving its own cyber defenses and tax refund filters, the IRS believes that weak security on the computers of tax preparers could be putting their clients’ personal information at risk.
As part of the effort, the IRS has posted online fact sheets and tips to help tax preparers safeguard their clients’ data. The "Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself" campaign will run through the beginning of next tax season.
“We have more than 700,000 tax preparers in this country, with many of those taking good security precautions,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
Fact Sheet 2016-23, “Tax Professionals: Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself from Identity Theft,” encourages tax preparers to follow the security suggestions in Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data. The fact sheet outlines the steps for protecting taxpayer information.
The IRS is also asking tax preparers to sign up for its weekly e-News for Tax Professionals newsletter, along with following the IRS Tax Pro Twitter Account and the Return Preparer Office’s Facebook page to keep up to date with the latest news about the security awareness campaign and tax scams and schemes in general. In conjunction with that effort, the IRS is creating a "Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself" page on IRS.gov.
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