Will The Security Summit Keep Taxpayers Secure?

meeting-1177454_640Thanksgiving is upon us. Without question there is much to be thankful for. And as we gallop toward another tax season, we can be thankful that the IRS reached out to private sector tax industry leaders and states to form a Security Summit whose mission it is to create processes in the tax filing systems to prevent fraud and identity theft.

According to an Accounting Today article, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was quoted as saying, “Working together, the states, industry and the IRS came up with more than 20 data components that we can collect and share with each other when a return is filed.”  He continues with, “This data, which is largely invisible to the taxpayer when their return is filed, will shine new light on potentially fraudulent returns.” 

This is good news, considering how many hundreds of thousands of taxpayers were hit by the scammers and online thieves in the past few years, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. That money comes out of the IRS coffers. It is money that is designated to keep our country’s infrastructure sound and efficient. Money   that improves the roads you drive on, the schools your kids go to, the parks you play in, the clean air you breathe and water you drink, the electrical grid that delivers you power, the people who cart away your garbage, the military that deters foreign invasions, the police that maintain order, the system of laws and courts that enforce contracts and make commerce possible, the internet you use every day, the medical treatments that might save your life and the lives of those you love. Is it any wonder that the IRS has had to reduce its workforce in light of the millions of dollars given to criminals?

We fail to take these things into consideration. The IRS has a truly gargantuan task. And they cannot do it alone. Which is why, I, for one am grateful they have reached out and asked for help.

According to Accounting Today, “Along with the data sharing, the IRS will also continue to use its recently introduced Return Review Program to prevent fraud.” Koskinen said, “This is a relatively new and sophisticated fraud detection system designed by the IRS specifically to protect taxpayers.” He added, “I’m not interested in giving criminals a roadmap to our system, so I won’t go into a lot of details on which data components we’re looking at, but let me give you just a few basic examples. If tax returns come from the same foreign Internet address, we’ll see that. If many tax returns are filed from the same device, we’ll see that as well. We can also see how long it takes to prepare a return online from the time a person logs in to when the return is filed electronically, so if a tax return appears to be automatically generated by machine, we’ll find that out as well. All of these give us a better defense against criminals trying to use stolen taxpayer information to file tax returns that are false and claim refunds, and we can do a better job of stopping the refund before it goes out the door.” 

As far as I’m concerned this is great news and something I am grateful for. The IRS doesn’t usually make it into my list of people, places and situations I’m thankful for during Thanksgiving. But, this year, I am making an exception.