Cyber Thieves Hit the IRS—and 100,000 Taxpayers

Cyber Thieves Hit the IRS—and 100,000 Taxpayers

REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files
By Brianna Ehley, The Fiscal Times

Identity thieves hacked into an Internal Revenue Service data system earlier this year, potentially gaining access to personal financial information for at least 100,000 taxpayers.

The IRS issued a statement today saying that its online system, “Get Transcript,” was breached between February and May, the Associated Press first reported. The portal possesses information including tax returns and other taxpayer data stored by the IRS.

Related: Tax Thieves Could Boost Their Income by 262 Percent

The IRS’s statement said the tax thieves were able to penetrate the system because they had knowledge of 100,000 taxpayers, including dates of birth, Social Security numbers and tax filing details.

The massive hack comes as identity theft is at a record high. Earlier this year, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reported that 1.6 million taxpayers were affected by identity theft in 2014 – compared to just 271,000 in 2010.

The IRS’s ability to catch fraudsters was even added to the GAO’s “High Risk List” or the list of federal programs that are most-vulnerable to waste, fraud and abuse.

Auditors attribute the increase to the uptick in electronic filing, which is more convenient for tax filers, but also easier for fraudsters to file fake returns.

TIGTA says the IRS doled out more than $5.8 billion in fraudulent refunds related to identity theft during the 2013 filing season.

The shift to electronic filing is also apparently making taxpayer information even more vulnerable according to the latest breach.

Related: IRS Struggles to Help Victims of Identity Fraud

The hack is obviously bad news for the agency, which is already struggling to address cases of identity theft as they stack up. TIGTA reported the IRS took about 278 days on average to resolve identity theft cases in 2013, despite the agency claiming that it takes about 180 days or six months to resolve issues of identity theft.

When it does complete cases, the IG found that about 10 percent of the “resolved” were riddled with errors.

The latest report comes at a tough time for the IRS, which is struggling with a recent round of budget cuts and is operating with an even greater workload while enforcing at least 40 new tax provisions under the president’s health care law.

The agency said it has temporarily suspended the online service that was the subject of the breach until the vulnerabilities are resolved.

Top Reads from The Fiscal Times:

EU Finance Ministers Warn Mnuchin About Tax Plan

By The Fiscal Times Staff

The finance ministers of Europe’s five largest economies — Germany, France, the U.K., Italy and Spain — warned that the Republican tax plan could have “a major distortive impact” on international trade and may violate international treaties. "The inclusion of certain less conventional international tax provisions could contravene the U.S.'s double taxation treaties and may risk having a major distortive impact on international trade," the ministers wrote in a letter to Mnuchin.

Trump’s Plans for Welfare Reform Will Hit Health Care, Housing and Veterans

iStockphoto
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Politico reports: “The White House is quietly preparing a sweeping executive order that would mandate a top-to-bottom review of the federal programs on which millions of poor Americans rely. And GOP lawmakers are in the early stages of crafting legislation that could make it more difficult to qualify for those programs. … The president is expected to sign the welfare executive order as soon as January, according to multiple administration officials, with an eye toward making changes to health care, food stamps, housing and veterans programs, not just traditional welfare payments.”

It’s Official: No Government Shutdown – for Now

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times
By The Fiscal Times Staff

President Trump signed a short-term continuing resolution today to fund the federal government through Friday, December 22.

Bloomberg called the maneuver “a monumental piece of can kicking,” which is no doubt the case, but at least you’ll be able to visit your favorite national park over the weekend.

Here's to small victories!

Greenspan Has a Warning About the GOP Tax Plan

Alan Greenspan
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
By Michael Rainey

The Republican tax cuts won’t do much for economic growth, former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan told CNBC Wednesday, but they will damage the country’s fiscal situation while creating the threat of stagflation. "This is a terrible fiscal situation we've got ourselves into," Greenspan said. "The administration is doing tax cuts and a spending decrease, but he's doing them in the wrong order. What we need right now is to focus totally on reducing the debt."