The IRS exposed confidential data on 120,000 taxpayers on an open website

By Laura Davison – Bloomberg News (via TNS).

The Internal Revenue Service mistakenly posted confidential data for 120,000 taxpayers on its website before realizing the error and deleting the data, the Treasury Department said.

The IRS accidentally released data from a tax form used by both individuals and tax-exempt organizations, the Treasury said in a letter to lawmakers Friday. While information about nonprofit groups is routinely made public, information about individuals is meant to remain private. The Treasury said the IRS will contact everyone involved in the coming weeks.

The disclosure did not include Social Security numbers, income figures or information that could harm an individual’s credit, the department said. Some published information included names and contact details.

Republicans may seize the error as another source of concern about the IRS, which many GOP lawmakers characterize as an agency that prioritizes revenue collection over respect for individuals.

The Form 990-T involved in the incident is used by both tax-exempt groups and individuals with retirement accounts invested in certain assets, including master limited partnerships and real estate investment trusts.

The Treasury said the error was discovered on August 26, but did not say how long the confidential information had been available for public download.

“The IRS continues to review this situation,” Anna Canfield Roth, Treasury’s acting assistant secretary for management, said in the letter. “The Treasury Department has asked the IRS to conduct a prompt review of its practices to ensure the necessary protections are in place to prevent unauthorized disclosure of data.”

The episode is likely to renew criticism from Republicans who are still seeking answers from the IRS about the disclosure of income information for some wealthy taxpayers published last year by ProPublica. GOP lawmakers have pressed the agency for more details about its investigation into the data leak.

The erroneous disclosure could also prompt Republicans to push for a cut in IRS funding if they were to win a congressional majority in the midterm elections. They criticized the provision of the Democrats’ Cut Inflation Act, passed last month, which gives the agency $80 billion in additional funding over a decade.

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