IRS Admits To Exposing The Confidential Data Of Over 100,000 Americans
Signage for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stands outside the IRS headquarters building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. Taxpayers have until Monday, April 18 to file their 2015 tax returns and pay any tax owed.
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The IRS said on Friday it had removed from its website confidential information on over 100,000 Americans it had exposed through a mistaken disclosure. 

In a letter from the Treasury Department to House Committee on Homeland Security Chair Bennie Thompson, the agency said that the data of about 120,000 Americans had been exposed through an “inadvertent disclosure.” 

This notification follows the IRS discovery that some machine-readable (XML) Form 990-T data made available for bulk download section on the Tax Exempt Organization Search (TEOS) should not have been made public,” wrote acting Assistant Secretary for Management at the Treasury Anna Canfield Roth. “In some instances, the data did include individual names or business contact information.”

Roth said the information did not include Social Security numbers, individual income information, or information that would impact a person’s credit. She also said that the agency had taken “immediate action” to take down the confidential information. 

The IRS generally uses Form 990-T data to collect information about individual retirement accounts and their investments into entities like real estate or master limited partnerships, according to the Wall Street Journal.  

The tax enforcement agency will also be conducting a review of their operations per the Treasury Department’s direction following the mistake. 

“The Treasury Department has instructed the IRS to conduct a prompt review of its practices to ensure necessary protections are in place to prevent unauthorized data disclosures,” Roth’s letter says. 

The mistake is another hit for the embattled agency, which has been criticized by Republicans over concerns that the nearly $80 billion in funding given to the IRS through the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” will increase audits on middle class Americans. 

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said that the audit rates for middle class Americans will not increase, but some remain skeptical of her claims and point to her language about comparisons to audit levels in the past. 

“I direct that any additional resources — including any new personnel or auditors that are hired — shall not be used to increase the share of small business or households below the $400,000 threshold that are audited relative to historical levels,” Yellen said last month. “This means that, contrary to the misinformation from opponents of this legislation, small business or households earning $400,000 per year or less will not see an increase in the chances that they are audited.”

With the funding from newly passed legislation, the IRS could hire up to 87,000 new employees, some of whom are expected to be enforcement agents.

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