This week is National Tax Security Awareness Week, a weeklong, daily deployment of consumer warnings and tips curated by the IRS and its Security Summit partners.
On the heels of tax filing season, the effort aims to help consumers protect themselves and their financial data against identity theft and tax fraud.
But the Security Summit, an unparalleled, combined effort to combat identity theft between the IRS, state tax agencies, and the private-sector tax industry, also aims to educate tax professionals.
“In the months ahead, more than 100 million tax returns will be completed on laptops and desktops by taxpayers and tax professionals, making this the perfect time to take steps to protect your valuable information,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
Security Summit partners were quick to point out that cyber-criminals increasingly target tax professionals in order to obtain (and steal) taxpayer information to fraudulently obtain tax refunds.
Increases in cyber security threats and data breaches targeted to tax professionals and accounting firms is due in large part to the increased use of the cloud for data storage.
“If the data is related to customers, clients, employees, or finances, cyber-security becomes the number one criterion in vendor selection, or at least it should be one of the top. The growth in the number and sophistication of cyber-attacks should have any reasonable person cautiously paranoid about who could get access to data stored electronically,” said Donny Shimamoto, CPA, CITP, CGMA, founder and managing director of IntrapriseTechKnowlogies LLC and a former AICPA committee chair. “As a firm, it’s critical to be aware of what data you have that will put your firm at risk and your requirements to protect that data; Not doing so could potentially put your firm at risk for gross negligence.”