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Thursday November 30, 2023

Washington News

Washington Hotline

National Tax Security Awareness Week

On November 17, 2023, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and its Security Summit partners announced the annual National Tax Security Awareness Week that focuses on protecting the financial information of taxpayers and tax professionals.

The 8th annual National Tax Security Awareness Week is from November 27 to December 1, 2023. The Security Summit is a coalition of the IRS, state tax administrators, tax software companies and the tax professional community.

With the holiday shopping season gathering momentum, the Security Summit partners advised both taxpayers and tax professionals to be extra cautious. During the holiday season, tax fraudsters ramp up efforts to trick individuals into revealing personal information. The fraudsters use email, text messages, social media and phone calls to try to gain access to personal information and steal 2023 tax refunds.

IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel noted, "This security week highlights ways for taxpayers and tax professionals to protect themselves against rapidly evolving identity theft schemes to steal tax and other financial data. The Security Summit effort is an innovative way that the IRS, the states and the private-sector tax industry work together to protect taxpayers and the tax community."

There will be major media efforts by the IRS to enhance awareness of National Tax Security Week. The IRS will make announcements on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. The IRS will also provide additional educational materials. On November 30, there will be a webinar for tax professionals to assist them in developing the required Written Information Security Plan (WISP).

Identity thieves are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approach. They impersonate the IRS through fake emails, texts and online scams. Peter Barca, President of the Federation of Tax Administrators Board of Trustees and Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue notes, "The Security Summit has made incredible strides to protect taxpayers across the nation, but identity thieves continue to evolve. We encourage taxpayers, businesses and tax professionals to remain on guard against these threats and the information in National Tax Security Awareness Week can help."

The IRS has developed an excellent website tool called the Identity Theft Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC). This website tool helps the IRS track emerging scams and strategies of identity thieves.

Julie Magee, one of the original participants in the Security Summit and the Tax Regulatory Affairs Lead for Cash App Taxes, noted "Even with all the success made by the Security Summit to protect taxpayers and the tax system from identity thieves, more work remains to be done. Consumers and tax professionals play an important role in this effort; protecting their important information will also help the Security Summit partners in the battle against identity theft."

There will be a focus on specific safety strategies each day during National Tax Security Awareness Week. As Cyber-Monday is approaching, the week will highlight online safety. Taxpayers should use anti-virus software with a firewall to protect from intrusions. You should have strong and unique passwords for all accounts. All financial accounts should have two-factor authentication enabled. Do not shop online unless "https” appears in the web address with a padlock icon. Avoid using unsecured or public Wi-Fi.

Other notable topics that will be covered include tips for tax professionals. They should protect their business accounts with two-factor authentication. If professionals are working remotely, they should use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). All tax professionals are required by federal law to have a Written Information Security Plan. Tax professionals should also be on guard for “spearphishing” efforts by fraudsters.

The IRS also encourages taxpayers to use the Identity Protection PIN Program. The IP PIN is a six-digit code that is known to the individual and the IRS. It helps protect your Social Security Number. You should only give the IP PIN code to a trusted tax preparer.

The week will also focus on small business protection. The majority of cyberattacks are focused on businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Hackers have discovered that these small businesses are less likely to have sophisticated firewalls or website and email protections. Business owners may find it helpful to review the "Business” section on the IRS Identity Theft Central on IRS.gov.

Published November 24, 2023
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