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Tax Law

IRS Changes Access to Transcripts to Fend Off Cybercriminals

By Jeffrey D. Moss & Essence Patterson

Accountants and attorneys aren’t the only people who use tax transcripts. There are a variety of non-tax purposes for transcripts, such as: verifying income for home mortgages; obtaining car loans; and applying for financial aid. But, if you’ve ever found yourself using the IRS’ fax transfer service to obtain one of these transcripts, you should make yourself aware of the newest step implemented to protect your data from cybercriminals.

While fax communication seems archaic to most, faxes are used by the IRS to send copies of tax transcripts until recently. On June 4, 2019, the IRS reported that it would no longer offer its tax transcript faxing service beginning June 28, 2019. The IRS also announced its plans to amend the Form 4506 series to end third-party mailing of tax returns and transcripts in July. This change does not prevent individual taxpayers from having copies of their returns or transcripts mailed to their address of record.

This change comes as the IRS continues to face attacks by cybercriminals. In 2017 hackers victimized 16.7 million U.S. taxpayers, cheating them out of $16.8 billion. Cybercriminals have been able to obtain your tax transcripts and use them to file fraudulent returns, closely mirroring legitimate returns. These fraudulent documents are extremely difficult for the IRS to detect.

In 2018, cybercriminals used a malware, known as Emotet, to send emails masqueraded as IRS communication. The scam email carried an attachment labeled “Tax Account Transcript” or the subject line used some variation of the phrase “tax transcript.” When opened, the emails contained malicious software that spread throughout entire networks, taking months to successfully remove from the host. Emotet Malware has been labeled as one of the costliest and most destructive malwares. Thus, the IRS hopes by no longer sending transcripts to third parties that the appeal of these masquerading emails is reduced.

Copies of returns and transcripts are still available despite IRS changes. Individual taxpayers may:

  • Use IRS.gov or IRS2Go app to access transcripts online for download or print;
  • Use IRS.gov or IRS2Go app to get transcripts by mail; or
  • Call 800-908-9946 for an automated get transcript by mail feature.

Third parties who use Form 4506, or any of its versions, may use the IRS Income Verification Express Service to order transcripts.

In any event, you should ensure that you plan ahead. Online and phone orders can take 10 days from the time the request is received, while transcripts ordered by mail can take 30 days. Despite the slight delay, ending the transcript fax service is clearly a step in the right direction toward protecting your personal data.