IRS New York Field Office Photo credit: Matthew G. Bisanz
IRS New York Field Office
Photo credit: Matthew G. Bisanz (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

However, as Iowans get closer to the inevitable annual filing deadline for tax returns, they can unfortunately also be certain the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is yet again failing to protect their personal and financial information.

Last week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) – the office charged with auditing and investigating the federal government – released a report citing significant, “unnecessarily vulnerable” security weaknesses within the IRS, which threaten the privacy of sensitive information of taxpayers across the country.

This news is just as frustrating as it is frightening.

In just the past year, the IRS collected over $3.3 trillion and processed over 243 million tax return forms and other taxpayer documents. With the amount of data and money routed through IRS each year, the safety and security of every American’s personal information should be the agency’s top priority.

What’s more, the GAO pointed to the IRS’ failure to implement parts of the agency’s own information security program as an “underlying reason for these weaknesses”. GAO even released a separate report citing 43 different recommendations of corrections the IRS needs to make.

While the IRS has been busy neglecting to implement aspects of their own security procedures, cybercriminals, thieves and fraudsters continue to target the personal information of hardworking Americans through many different means. Looking at last year alone, approximately 330,000 identities of taxpayers were compromised by cybercriminals.

I often hear from Iowans voicing their concerns about filing tax return forms online, or worries about sharing personal information over the Internet, or even reporting instances of their own stolen returns or those of their friends, neighbors and family members.

The IRS has said they will review the GAO report and update Congress within 60 days, however I think this unhurried plan of action is unacceptable. The IRS needs to work to address their systems and policies without delay, because Americans deserve accountability, transparency and assuredness when it comes to the federal agencies with which they are required to interact.

As your U.S. Representative, and as founder of the Bipartisan Congressional Task Force to Combat Identity Theft and Fraud, I fight for solutions to address problems like cybercrime, tax fraud, and identity theft every day. While the cybersecurity landscape may be ever changing, my commitment is constant, as I work with my colleagues to find commonsense solutions to protect Iowans from hackers, scammers, thieves and fraudsters.

And ultimately, the IRS must utilize every existing tool available to implement and improve security policies, for there is absolutely no excuse for federal agencies to risk the personal and financial information of countless Americans.

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