(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
audits, irs, snooping, tax returns

IRS Employees Caught Snooping On Tax Returns

from the nice-to-see-someone's-checking dept

Last week, in writing about the Italian government's defense of its decision to put everyone's tax returns online for everyone else to see, we noted the bizarre statement by the official who made the decision: "In the USA, tax filings are already public, check any American TV-movie and you'll see." This totally false statement didn't get much play in the American press (someone in the comments suggested that maybe it seemed so unbelievable that the press thought he was joking). However, as if to make it painfully clear how false this statement actually is, five IRS employees have been charged for snooping on tax returns they were not authorized to look at. While it is a little troublesome that IRS employees were able to do this in the first place, it's at least somewhat comforting that the IRS's auditing system seems to be able to catch people doing this, even when they're only looking at a very small number of unauthorized returns (each worker only looked at one to four unauthorized returns).

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Joe Taxpayer, May 15th, 2008 @ 6:52am

    That's good to hear, but ...

    How do you get your return to the IRS ?
    If it is through one of the internet services or a tax service that uses one, your return is probably retained by them. Read their EULA. I have no idea why they think they need to retain your personal information.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    James, May 15th, 2008 @ 7:10am


    "Somewhat comforting"... actually its somewhat-f**king-AMAZING that they caught this at all (and even admitted it no less). I'm not sure whether to be relieved or surprised.

    My guess is many of the folks who work there, who have access to this information, have the same attitude as cops or people in other positions with potential for abuse.. they are "ABOVE" it. The rules do not apply to them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    earl, May 15th, 2008 @ 7:42am


    i like ommelettes

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2008 @ 7:49am

    or they could have just been bored and started browsing around on their file servers seeing what they could and couldn't do. When you work in a cubical and stare at a screen all day there's plenty of things you do to pass the time, such as play solitaire, but even thats not "allowed"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Tom The Toe, May 15th, 2008 @ 8:36am

    Checking Out The Documents

    They probably use a vault system. If you look at a document it checks it out to you under your name. Some vaults even notify a supervisor if you check out a document you are not supposed to see. All the ins and outs of each document is kept in a locked log file for management to review so they can see who is looking at what.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Overcast, May 15th, 2008 @ 8:52am

    Won't it be wonderful when they have all of our medical records, faces scanned into recognition software, full financial information, buying habits, and everything else in a database linked to the RFID string implanted in our arm?

    We don't have to worry about a thing then!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2008 @ 9:02am

    Welp, looks like it's time to abolish the IRS!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Hulser, May 15th, 2008 @ 9:47am

    Of course it's disturbing that IRS employees are snooping into people's tax return info, but what I find even more disturbing is the fact that someone is dumb enough to believe that "TV-movies" accurately portray American life. What, this guy saw an episode of CSI where someone hacked into a computer and leapt to the conclusion that all IRS data are public?

    (When I lived in Australia, people would ask me if life was really as violent in the US as they see on TV and in the movies. My stock answer was that Hollywood is as accurate about portraying American life as they are about portraying Australian life or any other country. Having answered questions about kangaroos walking in the streets of downtown and why they weren't dressed like Crocodile Dundee, most of the time, that was all the answer they needed.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    sea ronin, May 15th, 2008 @ 10:28am

    Systems Audits

    I once worked with SSA. In recent years after a breach of security by an employee the data systems were redesigned that if a person entered the file of a case not assigned to that worker, alarms went off and supervisors were notified almost immediately. We had to justify in writing why the incident occured. Curiosity didn't was not acceptable. SSA has it fairly well in control.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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