Any IRS news heard this time of year usually involves stories about refunds and tax returns. But little time has been spent analyzing a new app the IRS released recently that allows you to quickly search for your old tax files. On the outset, it looks like a useful tool where you can conveniently search your past returns and print them to use for things like mortgages or school loans. Cleverly called Get Transcript, it’s facing some scrutiny over its security rather than the design or content.
According to Information Week, the new head of the IRS, John Koskinen, will testify to the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee about these security issues and what those concerns might be. As with all apps and wireless services providing sensitive information, the concern is that hackers will get easy access to people’s private information. Conversely, it’s already helping people save time having to send for their past tax information by snail mail.
What will the security hearings find? And can we manage to balance a slight sense of risk in order to gain some convenience for once from the IRS?
How Get Transcript Works
As with all online services, you simply have to set up an account (for free) and go through an authentication process before you can use the app. Once you do, you’ll have instant access to any past tax record in your lifetime that you can print out on your own. The IRS makes it easier by creating categories on Get Transcript’s main page for specific tax returns a person might need. They provide one-click access to documents for employees, the self-employed, international taxpayers, the military, parents, seniors, and students.
Because the IRS knows not everyone is going to feel confident with their tax documents being so easily accessible online, they give you the option to have your document snail mailed to you. It’s there where the public may have to shift their line of thinking just for the sake of making the IRS become more convenient.
Accepting Risk and the Future of a Digital IRS
In the earlier report from Information Week, they make it clear the IRS isn’t looked upon very favorably when it comes to protecting information. While the IRS has taken as many steps as possible to let users safely authenticate their identity, Information Week says there’s still a fear from some in D.C. that security gaps are going to be there. How that gets resolved may have to be determined by what the public does.
Have we gone to a place where we don’t worry about security as much now for the sake of getting something convenient? With the IRS being known for being so bureaucratic, it’s a given that the public may take to any digital tool the IRS provides. It’s certainly possible we may eventually see everyone filing their return or doing tax time payments by smartphone rather than mail or fax. The U.S. Tax Center notes that many are already filing returns by smartphone. When it’s all mainstream, get ready for security becoming overly complicated.
Regardless, with slowly advancing encryption technology, things might improve if hackers don’t end up getting one step ahead as usual. If not, we may have a population accepting risk with their tax information for the sake of making taxes a much more efficient process than they ever have been.