Speaking of Transcripts…

Last week I wrote about the possible elimination of the ability for tax professionals to request transcripts through the Practitioner Priority Service beginning tomorrow (Monday, January 27th). I have not received confirmation of this, nor have I received any official denial of this. I guess we’ll find out about this in the next few days. However, the IRS does have a new “Get Transcript” program that has at least one tax attorney worried that it will be yet another godsend for identity thieves.

Kenneth Ryesky, a former IRS attorney who now teaches business law and taxation at Queens College of CUNY has written a piece for American Thinker wondering if the new program has identity theft countermeasures.

So I tried out the program. You have to give your name, address, tax filing status, and then wait for a confirmation code. You then have to answer some questions that are used by a third-party to verify you are who you say you are. Unfortunately, at least three of the four questions asked of me were public information; the fourth wasn’t public but the IRS should not have had access to the information it wanted verified. I don’t know if the information asked for varies randomly, and I do not want to compromise the program, so I’m not going to post specifics on the questions asked. Once my answers were verified, I was able to immediately download a transcript. (You can download Tax Return, Tax Account, Record of Account, and Wage and Income Transcripts; you can also obtain a Verification of Nonfiling Letter.) So individuals can absolutely obtain a transcript (as long as they have recently filed tax returns) through the program.

However, I am suspicious that the security on this program is not stringent enough. All the questions were multiple choice, so a lucky guesser combined with publicly available information could make this an identity thief’s new best friend since the Death Master File. If you’re a tax professional and have five free minutes, try the program out. I’ll update this post tomorrow after I have my partner run through the same exercise. For the moment, I’ll close by stating that I suspect this program could be abused by identity thieves.

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