McMorris, Hastings to IRS: Put Taxpayer Privacy First

(Washington, D.C.)  Citing concerns about privacy Congresswoman Cathy McMorris (WA-05) and Congressman Doc Hastings (WA-04) urged the IRS to reexamine a proposal that would expand access to taxpayer information.

“Privacy concerns continue to rise and consumers are finding it increasingly difficult and cumbersome to keep their personal information safe,” the lawmakers noted in a letter to IRS Commissioner Mark Everson.

The IRS is considering a proposal to change privacy rules related to tax returns. The proposal contains several provisions that would strengthen privacy. However, McMorris and Hastings are concerned about a specific provision that would allow for wider use of personal information by allowing tax preparers to share taxpayer information with “unaffiliated” groups with the consent of the taxpayer. Under current law, that information can only be shared with “affiliated” groups.

Today the IRS held a public hearing on the proposed regulations.

The lawmakers said they are “hopeful that after reviewing public comments, the IRS will develop final rules that fully enhance privacy standards.”

A copy of the letter is below.

March 31, 2006

The Honorable Mark W. Everson
Commissioner
Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20224

Dear Commissioner Everson:

We are writing to share our concerns with a proposed rule that would expand the number of third parties allowed access to taxpayer information. We urge you to carefully review and consider this provision and make taxpayer privacy a priority as you develop a final regulation that increases taxpayer privacy.

Privacy concerns continue to rise and consumers are finding it increasingly difficult and cumbersome to keep their personal information safe. We understand the need to tighten IRS privacy standards and appreciate your efforts to provide customers a warning and limit the time period for which consent is valid. However, not including the “affiliated group” limitation that is currently in place will allow for wider sharing of personal information and will further fuel taxpayer privacy concerns.

We recognize the need for taxpayers to enlist the help of tax preparers because of our complicated tax code. It is our hope that in the near future our complicated tax code will be simplified to allow taxpayers to prepare and submit their own tax returns. Until that day is here, we urge to reexamine the proposed rule and make necessary changes to ensure taxpayer privacy.

We appreciate your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Cathy McMorris
Member of Congress

Doc Hastings
Member of Congress

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