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:

Larry Summers Savages Trump Tax Plan Analysis

By Michael Rainey

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers made his distaste for the Trump administration’s tax framework clear last week when he said Republicans were using “made-up” claims about the plan and its effects. Summers expanded his criticism on Tuesday in a blog post that took aim at the report released Monday by the Council of Economic Advisers and chair Kevin Hassett, which seeks to justify the administration’s claim that its tax plan will result in a $4,000 pay raise for the average American family.

Never one to mince words, Summers says the CEA analysis is “some combination of dishonest, incompetent and absurd.” The pay raise figure is indefensible, since “there is no peer-reviewed support for his central claim that cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent would raise wages by $4000 per worker.” In the end, Summers says that “if a Ph.D student submitted the CEA analysis as a term paper in public finance, I would be hard pressed to give it a passing grade.”

One of the authors cited in the CEA paper also has some concerns. Harvard Business School professor Mihir Desai tweeted Tuesday that the CEA analysis “misinterprets” a 2007 paper he co-wrote on the dynamics of the corporate tax burden. Desai’s research has found a connection between business tax cuts and wage growth, but not as large as the CEA paper claims. “Cutting corporate taxes will help wages but exaggeration only serves to undercut the reasonableness of the core argument,” Desai wrote.

For Tax Reform, It May Be 2017 or Bust

By The Fiscal Times Staff

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said Monday that tax reform has to happen this year, even if it means Congress has to stay in session longer. "I think we have a unique window in time right now, but unfortunately we keep losing days to this window,” he said. “The opportunity is now." House Speaker Paul Ryan said last week he’d keep members over Christmas if that’s what it takes. And Ryan predicted Monday that tax reform would pass the House by early next month and then get through the Senate to reach the president’s desk by the end of the year. But there are plenty of skeptics out there, given the hurdles. Issac Boltansky, an analyst at the investment bank Compass Point, told Business Insider, "The idea of getting tax reform done this year is a farcical fantasy. Lawmakers have neither the time nor the capacity to formulate and clear a tax reform package in 2017."

Do Republicans Have the Votes for the Next Step Toward Tax Reform?

The U.S. Capitol Building is seen shortly before sunset in Washington
REUTERS/Zach Gibson
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Passing a budget resolution for 2018 through the Senate will open a procedural door to a $1.5 trillion tax cut over 10 years. The resolution is expected to reach the Senate floor this week, although there are questions about whether Republicans have the 50 votes they need to pass it. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) said this weekend that she would vote for it and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is likely a “yes” as well, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-TN) is reportedly a likely “no” and John McCain (R-AZ) appears questionable. Now it looks like Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MI) won't be back in Washington this week to vote on the resolution due to health problems. The Hill says Cochran’s absence puts tax reform “on knife’s edge.”

Quote of the Day - October 16, 2017

By The Fiscal Times Staff

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Monday, President Trump said:

"Obamacare is finished, it's dead, it's gone ... There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore."

Click here for the video.