This morning’s news provided the disturbing story of the IRS managing to lose the personal financial information of one hundred thousand or more taxpayers. One might be forgiven for thinking that the IRS, being a government agency focused on tax collection and holding enormous amounts of data on taxpayers, would be sure to take extra care to be sure about the safety of that data. After all, financial advisers are constantly being pressured and audited by various regulators to make provision for protecting the client financial data they have access to in their business.
However, thinking about large targets generally, the IRS, like banks, financial advisers, health care providers, and any major consumer oriented business, is a fat and desirable target for criminals interested in a quick dollar. All of these businesses have an interest in protecting data and have been subject to breaches and hacking and so forth. So we know that any of our data may be at risk at any time and from anyone we do business with.
Further, this is the IRS. The group that will not stand behind tax advice its employees provide, when you can actually reach an employee to discuss an issue or raise a question. The group that hurries to pay huge refunds to persons not entitled to them, persons who rely on stolen personal information to file fake tax returns knowing the IRS isn’t really interested in preventing the fraud. The group that – on the flip side – makes it as difficult and time consuming as possible for honest taxpayers to file returns and obtain refunds where their identities have been compromised.
Cold comfort for those affected by the latest data breach – the IRS will pay for credit monitoring. Of course, we taxpayers fund the IRS so the source of money for the monitoring will be us. Spending on monitoring will divert funds that might better be used to prevent fraud, breaches, and other problems or to actually provide real advice and help to taxpayers. And for those responsible? No IRS employee will lose their job or benefits for this failure and there will be no accountability for them. Look forward to more problems.