Report Exposes Major IRS Failings

According to a new report from the inspector general, the IRS does not have sufficient safeguards to prevent people from snooping and accessing sensitive taxpayer information in the United States. 

According to the study, many former IRS workers and contractors were discovered to have maintained access to IRS computer systems. There were still concerns even after the IRS severely limited the access of staff and contractors to taxpayer data after a devastating breach in 2021. 

The Internal Revenue Service has obscured certain data that may identify specific taxpayers since ProPublica released private information on rich people like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. 

Charles Littlejohn, a former IRS contractor, released tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, including former president Donald Trump, prompting the initiation of the probe. Earlier this year, Littlejohn received a five-year jail term for his guilty plea to tax information theft and distribution to news organizations. The US House Ways and Means Committee initiated the inquiry last year in response to the massive leak of confidential tax information that the IRS is charged with keeping secure. 

The Inspector General reported that leaking taxpayer information could undermine the public trust in the Federal tax system.

According to the IG’s research, everyone from staff to contractors follows the same procedure when requesting access: the agency uses its Business Entitlement Access Request System. As of July, the investigation revealed that over 91,000 people, including more than 5,000 contractors, had access to at least one of its 276 critical systems.

Not all cases of users losing access to critical systems could be reliably removed using established procedures. To illustrate the point, TIGTA found 279 users who were marked as segregated in BEARS yet could still access a system sensitive to the IRS. The IRS claims that removing network access for each person lowers, but does not eradicate, the possibility that an unauthorized user may get access to a sensitive system.

The IG advised the IRS to suspend users who obtain unfavorable results from background checks and to “timely” remove employees who leave the agency.