The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has accidentally published confidential data on 120,000 taxpayers in what can only be described as a bureaucratic blunder.
“The IRS recently discovered that some machine-readable (XML) Form 990-T data made available for bulk download section on the Tax Exempt Organization Search (TEOS) should not have been made public,” the agency says in a public notice released Sept. 2.
Exempt organizations use Form 990-T to report unrelated business income, claim an income tax refund, request a credit for certain federal excise taxes, or to report unrelated business income tax on reinsurance entities, among other things.
The issue lies with the way the IRS grouped forms filed by both tax-exempt organizations and regular folk.
The agency is required to publish 990-T forms filed by nonprofit groups. For regular citizens, however, that information is supposed to be kept private.
“The IRS took immediate steps to address this issue,” the agency said. “The files have been removed from IRS.gov and will be replaced with updated files in the near future. In addition, the IRS also will be working with groups that routinely use the files to remove the erroneous files and replace them with the correct versions as they become available.”
The IRS says it will contact all filers affected over the coming weeks.
The data does not include Social Security numbers, detailed account-holder information or individual income tax returns, the notice claims. However, the leak does include individual names or business contact information for some people, the IRS said.
In a statement to the press, the US Treasury said the error was discovered on Aug. 26, but it’s unclear exactly how long the data was available for the public to download.
“The IRS is continuing to review this situation,” said Anna Canfield Roth, the Treasury’s acting assistant secretary for management, according to Bloomberg.
The federal Treasury has ordered the IRS to promptly review its practices to ensure this doesn’t happen again.