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Friday July 12, 2024

Washington News

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Top Security Tips for Tax Preparers

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced a new campaign aimed at tax preparer security. The campaign is called "Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself."

IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel stated, "Security threats against tax professionals and their sensitive taxpayer information continue to evolve, and it is critical to stay on top of the latest developments to protect their business and their clients. The Security Summit effort between the IRS, states and the nation's tax industry has worked to protect taxpayers and tax returns from identity thieves, and tax professionals form a key part of these security defenses."

The IRS reports it received nearly 200 incident reports from tax professionals that could potentially affect up to 180,000 clients. Sharonne Bonardi is Executive Director of the Federation of Tax Administrators. She stated "There are special steps that tax professionals need to take to protect themselves from scammers trying to obtain sensitive information in attempts to file fraudulent state and federal tax returns."

Taylor Rodier is Legislative Affairs Director at Taxwell and a member of the Security Summit. She stated, "We continue to educate tax professionals on security measures to prevent data breaches that expose taxpayers' private information and jeopardize their business.

The IRS urges tax preparers to take basic steps to foil the "relentless efforts" of identity thieves. Tax professionals are targets of scammers who continue to grow in sophistication. They attempt to gain access to the tax preparers' computer systems. If the fraudsters steal data, they will be able to file fraudulent tax returns. Since the returns are for actual individuals who are clients of the tax professional, it is more difficult for the IRS to detect these fraudulent returns.

There are several specific steps the IRS recommends that tax preparers take in order to protect their clients.

  1. Security Plan - A Written Information Security Plan, or WISP, is a document that is designed to keep customer information safe and secure. There are five IRS Nationwide Tax Forums this year for professionals that will assist in developing a WISP.
  2. Emerging Scams Target Tax Preparers - The Security Summit continues to uncover new and creative scams targeting the tax community. The Security Summit's news releases will continue to highlight and inform tax preparers about these scams.
  3. Phishing, Spear-phishing and Whaling - These are not recreational activities. They are specific strategies by scammers to target tax preparers. The fraudster attempts to acquire passwords, bank account numbers, credit card numbers or Social Security numbers.
  4. Identity Protection PINs - The IRS offers an IP PIN to taxpayers to increase security. You must identify yourself online, on a phone call with an IRS employee or in person at an IRS center to obtain an IP PIN.
  5. Signs of Identity Theft - Tax preparers often are not aware that an identity theft has occurred. Tax preparers should watch for multiple clients who receive suspicious IRS letters, e-file acknowledgments from the IRS for more tax returns than they filed or computer cursors that move on their own.
  6. Security Six Protections - Tax preparers should know and implement the six different security protections which are anti-virus software, a computer firewall, multi-factor authentication, hard drive encryption, virtual private networks (VPNs) and critical file backups.

Published July 5, 2024
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