Math Is Hard, IRS Edition

I was so, so tempted to write, “Math Is Hard, IRS Addition,” but I held off. Why? Because it turns out that it wasn’t 104,000 people who were victimized in last year’s “Get Transcript” hack, nor was it 334,000 taxpayers.

The actual number was more than 700,000. And the unsuccessful attempts didn’t total 10,000; they totaled 500,000!

That’s a total of 1.2 million taxpayers impacted by this. There are around 320 million people living in the United States, so we’re talking around 1 of every 266 people being impacted. And given that this is the second upward revision of these numbers, who is to know if this is really the final total?

Before the data breach was first announced, I noted that the information that was asked for was publicly available; I felt the system wasn’t secure. It turns out I wasn’t the only one to warn about this. Krebs on Security (written by Brian Krebs) warned about this in March 2015.

Unfortunately, the politicized atmosphere in Washington won’t allow anything meaningful to happen here. What the IRS should do is emulate the online system that California’s Franchise Tax Board has. That system combines web based applications with mailing to a taxpayer’s most recent address (which must match the address in the application). Or perhaps the IRS might look at my modest proposal on identity theft. I wrote that nearly four years ago and the IRS has only made the problem worse.


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