Tax Security 101: tax preparers should take these steps to protect data
The IRS and its Security Summit partners launched a summertime campaign to remind tax professionals about the importance of data security. This effort is called “Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself: Tax Security 101.”
The IRS released a new, expanded guide with critical steps that tax preparers can take to protect client data. This campaign is intended to provide tax professionals with the basic information they need to better protect taxpayer data and to help prevent the filing of fraudulent tax returns.
Here are some of the steps highlighted as part of Tax Security 101. Tax preparers should:
- Learn to recognize phishing emails, especially those pretending to be from the IRS, a tax software provider, cloud storage provider or state tax agencies. Never open a link or any attachment from a suspicious email.
- Create a data security plan using IRS Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data, and Small Business Information Security – The Fundamentals, by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
- Review internal controls for their business. Preparers should:
- Install anti-malware and anti-virus security software on all devices, such as laptops, desktops, routers, tablets and phones. Keep software set to automatically update.
- Create passwords of at least eight characters; longer is better. Use different passwords for each account, use special and alphanumeric characters, use phrases, password protect wireless devices and consider a password manager program.
- Encrypt all sensitive files and emails using strong password protections.
- Back up sensitive data to a safe and secure external source not connected full time to a network.
- Wipe clean or destroy old computer hard drives and printers that contain sensitive data.
- Limit access of taxpayer data to individuals who need to know.
- Check IRS e-Services account weekly for number of returns filed with EFIN.
- Report any data theft or data loss to the appropriate IRS Stakeholder Liaison.
- Stay connected to the IRS through subscriptions to e-News for Tax Professionals, Quick Alerts and Social Media.