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Tax filing season and the protection of personal data

This week the IRS announced the dates for the upcoming tax filing season. Federal tax returns for 2015 will be accepted beginning on January 19, 2016.

The deadline for filing or requesting an extension will be slightly later than the usual April 15 date. Because of the Emancipation Day holiday in Washington, D.C., the deadline this year will not be until April 18.

In recent years, sharing personal data on tax forms with the IRS has come with legitimate concerns about the risk of identity theft. In this post, we will update you on some of the actions the IRS is taking to help taxpayers protect their personal data.

The IRS is seeking to develop a collaborative approach to data protection, partnering with state revenue agencies and the tax preparation industry. Collaborative efforts have been underway since last March.

The initiative includes working groups in which participants from both government and the tax industry address issues that include information sharing, cybersecurity and the process used for authenticating returns.

There is also a public education component to these collaborative efforts. To help prevent fraud and identity theft related to tax information, the IRS recommends taking various security steps. On your personal computer, these include installation of anti-virus programs, encryption of files and the use of firewalls.

It is also important to be careful with your paper documents, shredding anything sensitive that you have decided to discard.

And then there are the various tax scams that heat up around filing season. These are scams in which criminals pose as revenue agents in an attempt to get at your personal information. Keep in mind that revenue agents don't initiate contact by phone, and always be wary of high-pressure collection tactics from self-described tax collectors.

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