Taxes

IRS Rehired Employees Previously Fired as Security Risks

IRS blames budget cuts

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Kris Tripplaar/Sipa USA/Newscom

Millions of Americans' personal information may be vulnerable to hackers, thanks to the Internal Revenue Service's carelessness.

Not only has the agency been using an outdated security system, but it has rehired hundreds of employees previously fired for wrongdoing or performance issues, according to testimony by J. Russell George, the Treasury's inspector general for tax administration.

According to an audit published this year by George's office, the IRS has been expanding online tools for taxpayer use without taking key steps to guarantee the safety of taxpayers' information. One out of three Americans files their taxes online on their own.

George said the IRS has not fully implemented monitoring tools to prevent and detect computer hacks, is not monitoring its computer networks effectively for suspicious activity, and operates outmoded computer systems.

This is particularly important, George said, in light of the recent Equifax breach, which exposed the Social Security information of 143 million Americans and could vastly increase the risk of identity theft.

The IRS it relies on a 50-year-old technology, called the Individual Master File, that runs on outdated code. A replacement system—the Customer Account Data Engine 2, or CADE 2—has been plagued with delays and has no "scheduled or planned completion date," George said.

Because of the highly sensitive nature of tax returns and the risk of identity theft, George's office also conducted an audit of the procedures the IRS takes when it hires employees. In the 15-month period from January 1, 2015, to March 31, 2016, the IRS hired 7,500 employees—of whom 2,000 had worked for the tax agency previously. Of those rehired employees, about 200, or 10 percent, had been previously fired for conduct or performance issues, including several who had willfully failed to file their own taxes and four who were under investigation for unauthorized access to taxpayer information.

IRS officials defended themselves by saying it would be "cost prohibitive" to check the performance of former employees. When challenged, George said, the agency could not document that checking would be expensive.

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  1. Hey Tim, how’s the internship going?

    1. If he reads the comments, probably not all that well.

      1. Tim, put a period in your next post if you’re in trouble.

        We can help.

        1. Tough audience

  2. This is particularly important, George said, in light of the recent Equifax breach, which exposed the Social Security information of 143 million Americans and could vastly increase the risk of identity theft.

    Of course, the IRS immediately hired Equifax to help it verify personal information, on the theory that… i don’t know. Lightning never strikes twice, or something?

    1. on the theory that… i don’t know.

      X, it’s probably because, like the rehires, they are *experts*.

  3. IRS officials defended themselves by saying it would be “cost prohibitive” to check the performance of former employees. When challenged, George said, the agency could not document that checking would be expensive.

    And those officials were then fired, right? RIGHT?!

  4. A replacement system … has been plagued with delays and has no “scheduled or planned completion date,” George said.

    “IRS officials defended themselves by saying, since there’s no planned completion date, citing ‘delays’ is meaningless.”

  5. but it has rehired hundreds of employees previously fired for wrongdoing or performance issues

    Government of the people, by the apparatchiks, and for the apparatchiks.

    Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

    Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

    First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

    Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

    The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

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