Epperson & Company

News

Announcements and Tax Updates

IRS, Partners Urge Strong Passwords Help Protect Identities at Tax Time and Beyond

The Internal Revenue Services and its partners, in the fight against identity theft, urge computer users to strengthen their passwords. The password serves as the first line of defense to stop hackers and identity thieves from accessing your computer, mobile phone and other internet-accessible devices. The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax professional industry are asking for your help in their effort to combat identity theft and fraudulent tax returns. Working in partnership with you, we can make a difference. That’s why we launched a public awareness campaign that we call Taxes. Security. Together. We’ve also launched a series of security awareness tips that can help protect you from cybercriminals.

Here are a few basic steps to making passwords better and stronger:

1. Add password protections to all devices. You should use a password to protect any device that gives you that opportunity. Not only your computer, tablet or mobile phone but also your wireless network. The password is your first line of defense.

2. Change all factory password settings. If your device comes with factory password settings, for example the camera on your laptop, change it immediately. 

3. Longer is better. A password should be a minimum of eight digits but 10 to 12 is even better. It should be a combination of upper case and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Do not use your name or birthdate.

4. Do not repeat passwords. These days, people often have multiple, password-protected accounts. Do not use the same password repeatedly. Should a thief steal your password, he immediately will have access to other important accounts. Use different passwords, especially on important financial or tax accounts. 

5. Use two-factor authentication options. Many social media and financial institutions now give you the option of setting up a two-factor or two-step authentication process. A two-factor process involves a security code being sent to your registered mobile phone. This means if a thief manages to steal your user name and password, he will be blocked from accessing your accounts.

6. Consider a password manager. One option for keeping track of your passwords on multiple accounts and getting help in creating strong passwords is to use a password manager. Some reputable companies offer free or low-cost versions of their products. See if a password manager might be right for you.

The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry joined as the Security Summit to enact a series of initiative to help protect you from tax-related identity theft in 2017. You can help by taking these basic steps. To learn additional steps you can take to protect your personal and financial data, visit Taxes. Security. Together. Also read Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers.

Share this tip on social media -- #IRStaxtip: #IRS, Partners Urge Strong Passwords Help Protect Identities at Tax Time and Beyond. http://go.usa.gov/x8Pkj #IRS

As Holidays Approach, IRS Reminds Taxpayers of Refund Delays in 2017

IR-2016-152, Nov. 22, 2016                                                                 

WASHINGTON — As the holidays approach, the Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers to remember that a new law requires the IRS to hold refunds until mid-February in 2017 for people claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. In addition, new identity theft and refund fraud safeguards put in place by the IRS and the states may mean some tax returns and refunds face additional review.

Some Refunds Delayed in 2017

Beginning in 2017, a new law approved by Congress requires the IRS to hold refunds on tax returns claiming the EITC or the ACTC until mid-February. The IRS must hold the entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC — until at least Feb. 15. This change helps ensure that taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the agency more time to help detect and prevent fraud.

''This is an important change as some of these taxpayers are used to getting an early refund," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "We want people to be aware of the change for their planning purposes during the holidays. We don't want anyone caught by surprise if they get their refund a few weeks later than in previous years."

As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins. All taxpayers should file as usual, and tax return preparers should submit returns as they normally do. Even though the IRS cannot issue refunds for some early filers until at least Feb. 15, the IRS reminds taxpayers that most refunds will be issued within the normal timeframe: less than 21 days, after being accepted for processing by the IRS. The Where's My Refund? tool on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go phone app remains the best way to get this status of a refund.

Stronger Security Filters and Tax Refund Processing

As the IRS steps up its efforts to combat identity theft and tax refund fraud through its many processing filters, legitimate refund returns sometimes get delayed during the review process. While the IRS is working diligently to stop the issuance of fraudulent refunds, it also remains focused on releasing legitimate refunds as quickly as possible. 

Recently, the Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and industry partners finalized plans for 2017 to improve identity theft protections for individual and business taxpayers. This comes after making significant inroads this year against fraudulent returns. Additional safeguards will be set in place for the upcoming 2017 filing season.

The IRS and its partners saw a marked improvement in the battle against identity theft in 2016. This is highlighted by the number of new people reporting stolen identities on federal tax returns falling by more than 50 percent, with nearly 275,000 fewer victims compared to a year ago.

"These increased security screenings are invisible to most taxpayers," Koskinen said. "But we want people to be aware we are taking additional steps to protect taxpayers from identity theft, and that sometimes means the real taxpayers face a slight delay in their refunds.”

For more steps planned for the 2017 tax season, see Security Summit

 

Lora Epperson