IRS, States and Tax Industry Ask for Public’s Help to Fight Identity Theft


Guest Writers:

John Koskinen, Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service

Gale Garriott, Executive Director, Federation of Tax Administrators

With tax season underway and millions of families expecting refunds, the entire tax community is working together to fight back against tax-related identity theft. The time is now to protect your personal, financial and tax data online and at home, and we need your help.

Our effort to enlist the public’s help is one of many recommendations that came out of an initiative convened less than a year ago. Known as the Security Summit, this initiative resulted in an unprecedented partnership among the IRS, the states and the tax industry to make our tax systems and the 2016 tax filing season more secure.

Identity theft and the filing of fraudulent returns burst on the scene in a significant way several years ago. We’ve made major progress since then, but it’s clear that more can be done.

Through the Security Summit, we identified several new ways to help better safeguard taxpayers and their data during the 2016 filing season. We agreed on new minimum password standards, lock-out features and security questions to help prevent criminals from taking over taxpayers’ tax software accounts.

Far too many people fall prey to phone scams and phishing schemes that put sensitive data in the hands of cybercriminals. We’re urging the public to take steps to protect themselves this year. Here are a few of the most important things to do:

  • Use security software to protect your computer. This includes a firewall and anti-virus protection. Encrypt any files on your computer with tax returns or sensitive data, and always remember to use strong passwords.
  • Beware of phishing emails and phone scams. Identity thieves often attempt to steal names and Social Security numbers, passwords, credit card numbers, and bank account information by posing as trusted organizations that you recognize.
  • Properly dispose of old tax returns and other sensitive documents by shredding documents before placing in the trash.
  • Help your friends and family take steps to protect their security online. Many of us know someone unfamiliar with technology solutions like computer security software, so it’s important to spread the word.

Our central message to taxpayers this year is that we all have a role to play in protecting your data. Visit to learn more.

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John Koskinen is the 48th IRS Commissioner. As Commissioner, he presides over the nation’s tax system, which collects approximately $3.1 trillion in tax revenue each year. This revenue funds most government operations and public services. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Koskinen served as the non-executive chairman of Freddie Mac from 2008 to 2012 and its acting chief executive officer in 2009. Previously, Mr. Koskinen served as President of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Deputy Mayor and City Administrator of Washington D.C., Assistant to the President and Chair of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion and Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget. Mr. Koskinen also spent 21 years in the private sector in various leadership positions with the Palmieri Company, including President and Chief Executive Officer, helping to turn around large, troubled organizations. He began his career clerking for Chief Judge David L. Bazelon of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in 1965, practiced law with the firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher and served as Assistant to the Deputy Executive Director of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Commission. Mr. Koskinen also served as Legislative Assistant to New York Mayor John Lindsay and Administrative Assistant to Sen. Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut. Mr. Koskinen holds a Law Degree from Yale University School of Law and a Bachelor’s Degree from Duke University. He also studied International Law for one year in Cambridge, England. He and his wife Patricia have two grown children and live in Washington, DC.