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Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

Press Release


September 16, 2010
TIGTA - 2010-54
Contact: Karen Kraushaar
(202) 622-6500
karen.kraushaar@tigta.treas.gov
TIGTA-PAO@tigta.treas.gov

TIGTA Report: Target Dates Have Not Been Established to Eliminate or Reduce Taxpayer Social Security Numbers From Outgoing Correspondence

WASHINGTON - The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has made some progress in the protection of Social Security Numbers but has not chosen a date by which to eliminate or reduce their use on outgoing correspondence, according to a new audit report publicly released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

More than 130 million taxpayers entrust the IRS with sensitive financial and personal data, including their Social Security Numbers. TIGTA conducted its audit to determine whether the IRS is efficiently eliminating the unnecessary collection and use of taxpayer Social Security Numbers.

The IRS has implemented its Social Security Number Elimination and Reduction (SSN ER) Plan in response to concerns over the protection of personal data. However, no date has been set by which to eliminate or reduce the use of Social Security Numbers on outgoing correspondence, and the plan lacks milestones for progress.

"A person's Social Security Number is the most valuable tool an identity thief can obtain to commit financial fraud, and it becomes even more valuable if it is linked to other personal data, such as information required to prepare a tax return," said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. "The IRS must improve its strategy to effectively ensure the protection of this information. Taxpayers need to be assured that their private information is being protected from fraud, and abuse."

TIGTA recommended that the IRS make specific improvements to its SSN ER Program, especially concerning documentation and milestones to track progress. The IRS agreed with TIGTA's recommendations and has implemented a more strongly organized process for maintaining documentation related to major SSN ER Program accomplishments.

To view the report, including the scope, methodology, and full IRS response, go to: http://www.treas.gov/tigta/auditreports/2010reports/201040098fr.pdf.

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