The Internal Revenue Service is planning to begin testing as early as next week a more secure version of the online “Get Transcript” app that was taken down last year when the IRS discovered it had been used by hackers to access hundreds of thousands of tax returns.

“We are continuing to take critical steps to evaluate and improve our cybersecurity measures,” the IRS said in a statement Thursday. “After months of hard work, the IRS in coming days will beta test a new authentication and access process for Get Transcript Online. During this period, some people visiting the Get Transcript page will see options to use both Get Transcript Online and Get Transcript by Mail while others will see only the Get Transcript by Mail option. More information about the new authentication and access process and full re-launch of Get Transcript Online will be made available once beta testing has concluded.”

Last May, the IRS revealed that identity thieves had used the online application to access the tax returns of 104,000 taxpayers (see IRS Detects Massive Data Breach in ‘Get Transcript’ Application). Organized criminals used taxpayer-specific data that they acquired from non-IRS sources, including Social Security information, birth dates and street addresses. In August, the IRS admitted that another 220,000 taxpayers had been affected (see Extra 220,000 Hit by IRS ‘Get Transcript’ Breach).

In February, the IRS said a nine-month investigation by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found potential access of approximately 390,000 additional taxpayer accounts during the period from January 2014, when the application was launched, through May 2015, when the breach was detected (see IRS Finds ‘Get Transcript’ Data Breach Was More Widespread). In addition, 295,000 taxpayer transcripts were targeted but access was not successful. All taxpayers were supposed to be notified and offered Identity Protection PINs by the IRS last tax season.

Since taking down the online app last year, taxpayers and tax professionals have only been able to go online and order the transcripts to be sent to them by mail, rather than being able to access and print them out online.

The IRS plans to begin beta testing a more secure version of the widely used app next week that will employ an improved mechanism for authenticating users. The IRS is likely to issue an announcement early next week.

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