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Tax & AccountingNovember 29, 2022

It’s National Tax Security Awareness week: learn how to protect your data

We have entered the holiday season and soon will begin the next tax season. This period is one of heightened risk of identity theft and phishing and other scams perpetrated by fraudsters to steal sensitive financial information. 

The Security Summit, a coalition of the IRS, state departments of revenue, and members of tax software and tax professional community, focuses this week on identity theft to protect tax professionals and taxpayers.

National Tax Security Awareness week: why you should care

Now in its seventh year, the annual National Tax Security Awareness Week takes place from November 28 - December 2. The event is part of a larger and continual effort by the Security Summit, to combat tax-related identity theft by strengthening protections against fraud and raising security awareness.

The IRS states that we all face increased risk as fraudsters take advantage of the holiday season to trick people into sharing sensitive personal information by email, text message, and online. “Identity thieves use that information to try to file tax returns and steal refunds.”

To help protect tax pros and taxpayers, the Security Summit features a week-long series of educational materials to help protect individuals, businesses, and tax pros from these unscrupulous actors.

What to expect during National Tax Security Awareness week

This year’s focus includes tips to enhance identity and financial information protections while shopping online and donating to charity. In addition, the Security Summit provides important guidance for tax pros and small businesses on how to further protect themselves from cyber criminals. 

The activities planned include a November 29 webinar titled Deeper Dive Into Emerging Cyber Crimes and Crypto Tax Compliance, special informational graphics, and a social media effort on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. 

IRS Acting Commissioner Doug O'Donnell told us that "the Security Summit effort focuses on highlighting simple steps that small businesses and people in all walks of life can take to protect their information, helping them avoid problems at tax time."

The IRS points out that these fraudsters often use recent tragedies or charitable groups to coax people into sharing sensitive financial data.

National Tax Security Awareness week 2022 highlights 

What tax professionals and their clients should be thinking about during Cyber Monday, throughout the holiday season, and beyond.

Protect personal and financial information online.

In addition to following this guidance themselves, tax professionals should remind their clients to take common-sense steps to protect their personally identifiable information (PII), such as:

  • Using security software for computers and mobile phones – and keep it updated.
  • Making sure anti-virus software for computers has a feature to stop malware, and that there is a firewall enabled that can prevent intrusions.
  • Using strong and unique passwords for all accounts.
  • Using multi-factor authentication whenever possible.
  • Shopping only secure websites; look for the "https" in web addresses and the padlock icon; avoid shopping on unsecured and public Wi-Fi in places like coffee shops, malls, or restaurants.

Review security protocols

As preparation for busy season 2023 starts to ramp up, tax professionals should deploy basic security measures such as:

  • Using multi-factor authentication to protect tax software accounts.
  • Creating a Virtual Private Network if working remotely.
  • Creating a written data security plan as required by federal law.
  • Knowing about phishing and phone scams.
  • Creating data security and data theft recovery plans.

Get an Identity Protection PIN

The Identity Protection PIN or IP PIN is a six-digit code known only to the individual and the IRS. It provides another layer of protection for taxpayers' Social Security numbers on tax returns. 

Use the Get an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) tool at IRS.gov/ippin to immediately get an IP PIN, and never share the IP PIN with anyone but a trusted tax provider.

Watch out for tax-related scams and implement safeguards

Small businesses especially need to be aware of scams and learn about best security practices. Check out the "Business" section on IRS's Identity Theft Central for more information.

Protection of sensitive financial information from identity thieves should be ongoing 

Although the IRS and its Security Summit partners set aside one week a year to place particular focus on tips to protect tax pros and taxpayers from cybercriminals, this activity needs to be an ongoing effort with a heightened awareness of the protocols that should be deployed to best protect tax pros and taxpayers of identity theft and the security of sensitive financial information.

For more detail see IR-2022-202

#GivingTuesday

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving marks Giving Tuesday, when many people choose to make charitable donations. 

The IRS reminds those making charitable donations for Giving Tuesday, or at any time during the year, to review whether their gift is tax-deductible.

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Mark Friedlich
Vice President of US Affairs for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting
Mark Friedlich, a CPA & tax lawyer, is the Vice President of US Affairs for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. He is a member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee’s Chief Tax Counsel’s Advisory Board, advisor to 14 state taxing authorities, and has been a member of the American Bar Association’s Tax Section and AICPA’s Tax Section leadership teams. Prior to joining Wolters Kluwer he was a COO and Principal at PwC.

 

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