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IRS to Allow Tax Preparers to Sell Your Info?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the personal-tax-software-sales-set-to-skyrocket dept.

289

merkel writes "The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the IRS has proposed rule changes allowing tax-return preparers, like H&R Block, to sell an individual's return information to marketers and data brokers. The proposed rule [PDF], which does contain some substantive protections for the processing of electronic returns, was published in the Federal Register on December 8, 2005. The official comment period has passed, but hearings will be held this month."

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note to self-- (5, Funny)

Tominva1045 (587712) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965840)



Note to self: re-read the EULA on Turbo Tax.

Re:note to self-- (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14966026)

No more Direct Deposit! Can't let my Routing/Transit and Account Numbers be sold, after all.

that print button.. (1)

Tominva1045 (587712) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966211)



Below someone makes a great point about the Print button in Turbo Tax. That is, this could cause more people to shy away from electronic filing- which is the opposite of what the IRS wants.

Internet Stalking 101 (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965841)

Oh no, my information is going to be sold and the government is going to allow tax preparers to sell it!

*gasp*

Let's narrow our fears on something a little more worrisome regarding privacy and the United States Government.

Ever filled out census information? Because, if you have, your information is available to anyone via a [peoplefinders.com] number [zabasearch.com] of [addresses.com] sites [integrascan.com] . That's right, for as cheap as an $8-$10 fee, people can find out what income range you are in along with a variety of other facts about you. They can also find out where you live for free!

I would normally thank god that I have a very non-unique name but if I enter my hometown and state, there I am listed five times with my address and parent's phone number. I was just a kid when I lived there! The best part is that if you click my name, they take the liberty to plug my address into Mapquest and Google Map bars in case you don't have the time to copy and paste it in there!

Go ahead, now try your name.

*cups his hand to his ear listening for the sound of a million nerds enshrouding themselves in tin foil*

I'm not worried about my personal information being sold to marketers ... you can send me all the marketing offers and SPAM you want. I am worried about someone with my same name trying to pass their credit card debt off on me. And I'm also worried about anyone I know who might have a problem with a stalker.

Do you know what your government is doing with your census data?

Re:Internet Stalking 101 (4, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965883)

Ever filled out census information? Because, if you have, your information is available to anyone

I only filled out the information they need for the constitutional purpose of the census. The rest of it is none of their damned business.

-jcr

Re:Internet Stalking 101 (4, Insightful)

Suidae (162977) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965995)

I am worried about someone with my same name trying to pass their credit card debt off on me

This isn't really much of a problem if you keep an eye on your credit reports. If something shows up that isn't yours, force the credit reporting agency to verify the entry. They'll try to avoid doing this because its troublesome for them and they don't really care if the info is right or not (as long as is right enough across millions of people to be useful to businesses). Force them to actually verify with the reporting creditor. If they verify it, contact that creditor (Via mail) and force them to verify that the debit is yours. They'll try to get out of that too, and may send you improper verification. Keep after them and force them to send proper verification and proof that they are authorized by the original creditor to collect the debit. If the debit is not yours, at this point you win.

Details about these processes and the laws that make them work can be found on the creditboards.com [creditboards.com] forums. In particular read about "Debit Verification" and the "The One-Two Punch". These are extremely effective techniques for getting inaccurate items off your credit record (or getting rid of reports from debit collectors who are not properly authorized to collect valid debits).

Re:Internet Stalking 101 (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966275)

Interesting... my credit card company CALLED ME the other day to confirm a transaction. They've done it in the past too. I've had a couple of problems with places double billing and as soon as I've noticed I've called the CC company, they said they'd take care of it, and usually BOTH transactions were credited back to me.

Re:Internet Stalking 101 (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14966568)

I will gladly accept any and all debits, mine or not. Now, debt on the other hand...

Re:Internet Stalking 101 (1)

Suidae (162977) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966598)

Heh, d'oh!

Re:Internet Stalking 101 (3, Insightful)

Steve B (42864) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966058)

Ever filled out census information?

I filled out the parts that are necessary for the Constitutional purpose of the census. For the rest, I amused myself by figuring out the most misleading possible technically true answer.

Re:Internet Stalking 101 (1)

toad3k (882007) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966068)

Well on the bright side, maybe online tax preparation will be free with most of the bells and whistles from now on, since they want as many peoples' info as possible.

Re:Internet Stalking 101 (2, Interesting)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966232)

Well, it's my information. I am paying them to process and file my tax returns. Nothing more, nothing less. If they are going to sell the information needed to do a task I paid them to do, they owe me money. You want to sell my personal information? Pay me $50 for the privilege of doing my taxes.

Re:Internet Stalking 101 (2, Informative)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966241)

"Ever filled out census information?"

You don't need to fill out all that information. The only questions the Census needs to ask are:
  • How many people (other than untaxed Indians) live in your household?
  • Of those, how many are men over the age of 21?
  • Of those, how many are enfranchised?
Anything else is extraneous.

Re:Internet Stalking 101 (1)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966269)

People finders was a bit spooky. It was able to list most of the places in the US I lived, and my immediate relatives, living and dead. Good news, is that nothing in there on my 20 year old son.

The amusing thing is that the database also includes 29 entries for I P Freely.

Re:Internet Stalking 101 (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966539)

"I P Freely -- American Patriot !"

Re:Internet Stalking 101 (1)

the_greywolf (311406) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966472)

Ever filled out census information? Because, if you have, your information is available to anyone via a number of sites. That's right, for as cheap as an $8-$10 fee, people can find out what income range you are in along with a variety of other facts about you. They can also find out where you live for free!

wouldn't you prefer a tab-separated values document (plain ASCII) or excel spreadsheeds instead? it's much easier to process! and free! [census.gov] and it's well-organized [census.gov] for ease-of-use!

disclosure: in one of my previous jobs, i used publicly-available Census 2000 data imported directly in MS Access '97 to generate detailed maps and datasets appropriate for detailed population analysis. it made possible a blitzkrieg FM translator application process possible. we had well over 17,000 applications prepared, and submitted 4,221! guess who we were!

Enough is ENOUGH. (2, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965854)

Put an end to the IRS gathering this information on every single person on the country. Support the FairTax [fairtax.org] .

-jcr

Re:Enough is ENOUGH. (3, Informative)

l2718 (514756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965981)

Since the main arguments for and against various tax reform proposals depend on much more serious problems with the US Federal tax system, I think the increased taxpayer privacy attribute of the national sales tax proposal is only of marginal importance in this field. Moreover, I feel I must point out that naming your proposal the "FairTax" rather than the "National Sales Tax" is political demagoguery at its worst. This is without considering the merits of the proposal.

Re:Enough is ENOUGH. (-1, Flamebait)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966047)

Moreover, I feel I must point out that naming your proposal the "FairTax" rather than the "National Sales Tax" is political demagoguery at its worst.

Bite me.

-jcr

Re:Enough is ENOUGH. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14966124)

kindly provide your name and address and I will!

Re:Enough is ENOUGH. (0, Flamebait)

Nimey (114278) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966197)

At least you didn't bother denying it.

Re:Enough is ENOUGH. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966604)

I see you didn't bother trying to argue against it with anything resembling cogent points.

-jcr

Re:Enough is ENOUGH. (1)

AnonymousPrick (956548) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966205)

Moreover, I feel I must point out that naming your proposal the "FairTax" rather than the "National Sales Tax" is political demagoguery at its worst. This is without considering the merits of the proposal.

I agree with that statement and it did bother me that the authors of the bill (HR 25) had to call it the "Fair Tax Act", but hey, these same people named the "PATRIOT" act. I am for the tax, BTW. But I think it's worse that a regressive tax like lotteries go completely unchalleged by the same folks who are against HR 25. And what's even worse is that the lotteries are advertised and give the poor folks who are the primary purchasers the false hope that these crooked games (the payout vs odds is completely unfair) will get them a better life.

Re:Enough is ENOUGH. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966324)

And what's even worse is that the lotteries are advertised and give the poor folks who are the primary purchasers the false hope that these crooked games (the payout vs odds is completely unfair) will get them a better life.

The constitution doesn't say anything about protecting people from their own stupidity. The odds are readily available and can often be found on the lottery ticket. What's unfair about that, again?

Re:Enough is ENOUGH. (1)

AnonymousPrick (956548) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966418)

What's unfair about that, again?

Nothing...I was just (I guess poorly! Doh!) pointing out the hypocracy of the folks who are against the "Fair Tax" because of it's regressiveness ( even though there's a provision for a rebate to poor folks) and yet, they're perfectly happy to let the lotteries go on.

Yes, I agree, lotteries are completely voluntary, whereas, taxes are forcibly taken.

I hate it when I'm unable to get my point across. I guess that's why I don't make my living as an essayist! ;-)

Re:Enough is ENOUGH. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966477)

Well, I have an unfair advantage in that I am a fucking pimp-ass super genius. Okay, maybe that's not it. It's probably just that I work for a Casino and I get to have discussions with people about how Gaming is apparently the root of all evil, especially tribal gaming in California... so I have a lot of practice.

Re:Enough is ENOUGH. (1)

d_54321 (446966) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966420)

It greatly simplifies that way taxes are collected and removes loopholes that special interests use to evade taxes, thus heaping more responsibility on you and me.

Fair: adj:
1- free from favoritism, self-interest, or preference in judgment

EVERYONE paying the SAME tax rate == Not fair? How?

Re:Enough is ENOUGH. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14966579)

"Not fair? How?"

Because people taking home 95 % of the wealth of this country will then pay 5% of the taxes, because they comprise 5% of the population. If you make 95% of the income you should pay 95% of the taxes, that is fair.

For example, to use your approach, why don't we just tax toilet paper, since everyone more or less uses the same amount? Then the people that harvest say $200,000 /year will pay exactly the same tax as those that make $25,000 (or less) a year. This is as regresive as it gets. If you are taking home most of the wealth you should be paying most of the taxes.

Hear, hear! (0)

XanC (644172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966206)

The income tax is, and always will be, rife with inefficiency and injustice.

Want to bring jobs back home? Want to make the US the world's tax haven? Want to truly unleash the potential of American productivity?

FairTax is the way to go.

no representation without taxation! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14966593)

With the amount of corporate money sloshing around perturbing American politics, we should just abolish the IRS and institute a tip jar.

Think homos should be forced to take hormone therapy to cure them? -- Talk to the tip jar.
Want to kill more towelheads? -- Click this convenient paypal link
Want to make copying a song punishable by slavery in the saltmines? -- Small, unmarked bills only, please.

Agreed... (4, Insightful)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966237)

Enough is enough...of calling a GS tax "fair."

At a certain point (generally at about $100k), the vast majority people quickly stop consuming their income and start hoarding it. Oh sure, some will burn through it on booze, drugs and hookers, but most start shoving that capital back into capital. The higher that income gets, the smaller the percentage of it that is consumed. So, your "fair" tax would, dollar-for-dollar, tax someone making $100k the same as someone making $1M...and I got news for you, that "used property" exclusion? Well, they ain't makin' any new land, so guess what will happen to the price of dirt? Well, until we're vacationing on the Moon.

Business purposes = no tax? Again, people nearing or exceeding $100k routinely put their entire damned lives on Schedule C (or into corporations) for exactly this purpose. Even if they _do_ consume above that level, it will surely be claimed as business expense--and that's determined at the point of sale or are we back to filing returns to prove it? Well, guess what, if you can avoid taxes completely by claiming business expense...you're going to find a great number of entrepreneurs and if they have to file returns, what's the benefit again in terms of paperwork and complexity reduction? If they don't, how do we prove it was business-related? Hmm.

A "prebate?" So, everyone gets a monthly check for the taxes on the first $14k of income, assumed to be consumed? Gah... That is going to eliminate the bureaucracy precisely HOW? So, people under $14k will get prebates for whatever % of $14k or will they have to file returns to prove exactly how poor they are? That'll really free up the ol' paperwork and fraud burden, now, won't it? What if it's a family of 12 and all but one are saving every penny. Now do we file returns to prove our consumption of "necessities?" Oy vey. ...and, come on, this "hidden taxes" routine is just lame. We need 2.5T to keep the proverbial lights on in the federal government. You WILL PAY FOR IT SOMEHOW. You don't need to go through all the individual taxes to know what the government is taking. Just look at the budget. It comes to about $17k per working adult. Yeah, that's a lot of cash--and that's your "fair share." Well, actually, it's about $8333 per person, so if you have a family of four, you really should be ponying up about $33k instead of getting all those child credits while sucking up the education budget.

The tax structure we have now is designed to induce certain behavior in many sectors. It is also designed to pay for certain _types_ of consumption, like gas taxes paying for the interstate pavement based on use. You consume pavement, you pay for the pavement. This sort of all-encompassing tax would shift the bureaucratic burden, it wouldn't eliminate it.

Really, I think the "Fair Tax" crowd has critically examined the current problem, which is certainly well due and admirable, but I don't think they've critically examined their solution, which on even first sight is fraught with all the same problems as the existing system -- and totally ignores a number of problems that the existing system deals with quite extensively.

Re:Agreed... (1)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966271)

That's a lot of text for someone who fundamentally has no clue.
Who do you think opens businesses? Who do you think buys stock? Who do you think purchases big ticket items?

Re:Agreed... (1)

Skreems (598317) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966536)

You don't see how taxing spending rather than income would dampen the economy? Every average joe is gonna see they untaxed money coming in, and a big free money pool in the stock market, while when purchasing goods the money instantly becomes worth about 3/4 the "held value". Unless you plan to tax stock purchases, this plan would decimate the economy.

Re:Agreed... (1)

d_54321 (446966) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966441)

GS [acronymfinder.com] ?

Re:Enough is ENOUGH. (0)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966309)

Rush Limbaugh said it pretty well. Once more than 50% of the public start to NOT pay taxes, forget tax reform. It will NEVER happen at that point. If your serious about preventing problems in this country that socialism has on France, now is the time to push for tax reform.

Re:Enough is ENOUGH. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14966489)

When you have to be disingenuous to convince people of your argument (like calling an inherently regressive tax "fair", pro-abortion "pro-choice" and anti abortion "pro-life") you've lost my ear.

A fair tax would have Bill Gates paying as big a percentage of his billions as I do my thousands in all taxes. But it ain't the case.

Most of his income isn't called income; capital gains, for example.

Then there's Social Security. Make Microsoft and Gates (and McNealy and Sun, and Sergio and Google, and...) pay the same 15% I and my employer pay and Socila Security would be solvent.

When I add up state income tax, federal income tax, property tax, state sales tax, county sales tax, city sales tax, gasoline taxes (state and federal), beer taxes (I pay a LOT of beer tax!) I wind up paying over half my income in taxes.

The poor who have a 5% sales tax pay 5% of their income in sales tax, while the rich pay a tiny fraction of a percent.

You know where you can shove your "fair" tax, buddy.

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Re:Enough is ENOUGH. (1)

31415926535897 (702314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966513)

Put an end to the IRS gathering this information on every single person on the country. Support the FairTax.

I think that this plan and Forbes' flat tax idea are both excellent ideas. I think some of the benefits are (or at least can be): smaller tax burden on the poor, simpler tax code for citizens, no more tax preparation industry, which would be of great benefit to the economy since all of those people are freed up to do something more economically productive.

Here is the one bad thing I have say about this or any new tax idea. They all are wonderful when they begin: clear, concise, fair, etc. However, I guarantee that it would be less than a year before it got screwed up. A regular income tax would be added again, or some lobbying organization would seek to reduce the tax on their item and increase it on another. It would get mucked up before too long; how do you think our current tax code got to be the way it is?

Now, don't mistake me for an apologist for our current tax laws. I hate them. I think we need reform, and I really like both the flat tax and fair tax ideas. But there has to be a way to set these things in stone (perhaps codify it in the constitution so that it's a real PITA to change), and then force the government to stay within that budget.

Anyone got any ideas? Maybe start our own country somewhere?

Why not leave it to the market? (1, Interesting)

l2718 (514756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965884)

Well, this rule should not be too alarming -- as long as these companies are up-front about it. What I'd like to see is a premium price for privacy: for an extra $10 (or whatever the value of your personal data is), they promise to never share it. Think of it another way: there's a $10 discount for letting them share your data.

It would be different if you had to go through these people, but since there are alternatives [TurboTax?] I suspect the market will sort it out. If tax preparation software acquired a "phone home" behaviour I'd start getting concerned.

Re:Why not leave it to the market? (3, Insightful)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965922)

Hmm...it's my data, I provided it, where's my cut? I'd say $10 for every company my information was sold to. And I get royalties for every time a new company takes it from one of the original buyers. At least that would be incentive to give up your information.

Re:Why not leave it to the market? (2, Interesting)

l2718 (514756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966020)

It's not your data anymore. This is like you selling me a book and then trying to dictate what tone of voice I use while reading it aloud because it's your poetry.

Say you decided to sign a contract whereby you gave them the data and allowed them to use it for various purposes, in return for $10. If you didn't like the terms (e.g. you want more than $10, you want royalties, or you don't want them to have your data at all) them you should not have signed the contract in the first place. What the law should say is that they are not allowed to do anything with your information unless you explicitely sold it to them (just like I can't read your book in public without signing a contract while it's under copyright protection).

Re:Why not leave it to the market? (3, Interesting)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966048)

Hmm...it's my data, I provided it, where's my cut?

I've been wondering this for years.

Companies have paid lip service to "privacy" over the years. Most every website and company has a "privacy policy", that often ends with the clause "subject to change without your notice".

Is there some way that consumers can organize and make their own demands of the terms that determine who they do business with? Kinda like a union for consumers?

The only answer I've come up with is hiding myself behind a company or corporation and not personally owning any property, but is there a way to do this with other consumers that want to have the same rights?

Re:Why not leave it to the market? (3, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966394)

Yeah, it's called a government. You elect representatives that share your views, then they vote to determine a policy that represents the majority. They have absolute power to protect the people. At least, that's how it's supposed to work. Voting for the guy with the prettiest TV commercials kind of short circuits the whole thing.

Re:Why not leave it to the market? (1)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966514)

Yeah, it's called a government. You elect representatives that share your views, then they vote to determine a policy that represents the majority. They have absolute power to protect the people. At least, that's how it's supposed to work. Voting for the guy with the prettiest TV commercials kind of short circuits the whole thing.

Wrong.

I _vote_ for representatives that share my views, the people I don't vote for get elected, and I suffer.

Also, in theory, the government works for me, but for some reason, I don't feel that way.

Re:Why not leave it to the market? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966605)

That's because you're not a majority. How exactly do you think a hypothetical consumer protection corporation/agency/militant wing would work? You'd get to dictate policy?

Any government DOES work for you, provided you make them accountable. If the majority of people are in the habit of either not voting or voting for whoever they're told to (ie whoever spent most on campaign ads) then the government will work for whoever provides them with the money to pay for those campaign ads.

If you actually cast an informed vote then you're not part of the problem. Most people don't, however.

Re:Why not leave it to the market? (1)

DemonThing (745994) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966442)

You would sell your personal information for $10?

Cool, l2718 lets see your tax return (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14966134)

Good, l2718 , lets see your tax return then. Feel free to post it online here.

Market value (1)

nuggz (69912) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966216)

Lets say there is a group of people willing to sell to sell their personal information for $10, and this becomes the accepted market price for this information.

Another group does not wish to share their information at any price.

A Company shares your personal information without permission, how can you justify any penalty greater than the $10 your information is worth?

Re:Why not leave it to the market? (1)

twostar (675002) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966608)

Here's a similar idea. For an extra $100/week we won't trash your beautiful shop here. Don't think of it as extortion, it's protection.

It isn't their information to sell. (5, Interesting)

Aspirator (862748) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965890)

It is the individual taxpayers information.

It was not acquired by the voluntary cooperation of the source.

If they want to sell it then they need permission from
the owner of the information, not the IRS's.

Re:It isn't their information to sell. (3, Informative)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966293)

Bzzt. Wrong answer.

Filling out your Tax return is "Voluntary, but not optional"

Look it up. It's true, and the courts have upheld it. It has to be voluntary to get around your 5th ammendment rights against self-incrimination. It's non-optional because of the income tax amendment.
A somewhat weaselly explaination can be found here http://taxes.about.com/od/taxtrouble/a/back_taxes_ 2.htm [about.com]

Social Security Numbers & Fraud (2, Insightful)

deanj (519759) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965897)

As if there's not enough trouble already with identity fraud & getting Social Security numbers of folks.

What dingbat at the IRS thought this was a good idea?

You know, one side effect of this is that it might accelerate the Flat Tax [fairtax.org] .

I don't think this was the IRS' bright idea (1)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965977)

I suspect crony capitalists in the Bush administration.

Re:Social Security Numbers & Fraud (1)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966050)

You know, one side effect of this is that it might accelerate the Flat Tax.

Ah, yes, the return of the consumption tax. I always wondered what it was like to live in the 19th century. Why not give the modern day robber barons an even bigger help than our government already has?

Fine by me. (4, Interesting)

bigtallmofo (695287) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965915)

I use TurboTax. I normally pay the $29 fee to electronically file it, but I can just as easily not send it to an intermediary by printing it out and mailing it in.

It will be interesting to see how many people go back to paper filing their forms directly to the IRS. Should be a nightmare of un-automation for them.

Re:Fine by me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14966087)

Their stated goal is to have 80% of returns filed electronically within 3 years. One of the things they did this year towards that end was eliminate filing by telephone, which I've used the last couple years and was very convenient.

Was a hassle for me because they also are phasing out the distribution of tax forms program (no longer allow new distribution points and more and more old ones are stopping the practice). Tried printing the forms but the fonts didn't come out right.

Lot of sleazy companies getting in on the action for online tax preparation, so I guess it doesn't surprise me too much that they would do something like this. Bunch of crap all around.

Re:Fine by me. (2, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966162)

I file paper. I complete the form with a pencil.

I'm extremely annoyed that the fed. gov. doesn't just set up a website for e-filing itself. It would save taxpayers and the government millions of dollars on paper forms and processing. It's a clear case of intentional government waste in order to create business opportunities for tax preparation services. Even my humble state of New Mexico has a simple, government run web form for me to file my taxes online. It's not rocket science.

My business scheme for next year is to start printing my own paper tax forms, then sue the govt. for sending them out and competing with my "private industry."

Re:Fine by me. (1)

mordors9 (665662) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966192)

I've always done mine by hand as well (close to 30 years of filing now) and have never been able to understand why most people pay someone else to prepare their return. They aren't that complicated and don't really take that much time. I think if most people actually looked at what was required they would kick themselves for not doing it.

Re:Fine by me. (2, Informative)

donnyspi (701349) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966340)

I completely agree with you. One big reason why people I know pay someone to do the taxes is it is a pain in the butt to list every single stock trade you made during the last year.

Re:Fine by me. (1)

Evro (18923) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966229)

It will be interesting to see how many people go back to paper filing their forms directly to the IRS. Should be a nightmare of un-automation for them.

Sadly it will probably be a very low number since most people tend to pay lip service to ideas like privacy while in practice not really doing anything about it. Convenience wins over privacy every time. Look at the rise of services like GM's OnStar. Yeah, they can unlock your car if you lock your keys in it, but they can also listen to anything you say in your car by remotely activating your phone if the FBI tells them to. People just don't care about privacy.

Re:Fine by me. (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966255)

A few years ago [infoworld.com] Turbo Tax came out with a version of their software with some nasty DRM/activation scheme [pcmag.com] , and was 'usable' on one machine only (you couldn't file or print out your taxes from both your desktop and laptop), and had a few other major gotcha's. I boycotted Turbo Tax after that and started using Tax Cut instead.

CPA (4, Interesting)

thehubbell (928572) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965919)

Go to a CPA. CPA's can loose their license to practice as a CPA.

CPA's ethics guidelines limit who and how a CPA share your information.

-Peer review
-Court order
-and such

It is a lot worse loose your CPA license than if a evening tax preparer to have to pick up a seasonal job. I doubt HR block would sell your info though even if they could.

Grammar Correction! (1, Offtopic)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966266)

CPA's can lose their license if they let your information loose.

Re:Grammar Correction! You missed one (1)

thehubbell (928572) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966528)

shouldn't I have to change:

It is a lot worse loose your CPA license than if a...

To:

It is a lot worse to lose your CPA license than if a...

Instead of just:

It is a lot worse lose your CPA license than if a...

But oh well.

H&R Block litigation re refund anticipation lo (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966327)

I doubt HR block would sell your info though even if they could.

They already do. And they've been in serious trouble for it. [nixonpeabody.com]

What this is really about is "refund anticipation loans", which are incredibly profitable. Right now, the tax preparer can only sell those if they're "affiliated" with the lender. Under the new rules, any tax preparer can use any lender.

From TFA: (3, Informative)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965928)

Critics call the changes a dangerous breach in personal and financial privacy. They say the requirement for signed consent would prove meaningless for many taxpayers, especially those hurriedly reviewing stacks of documents before a filing deadline.

"The normal interaction is that the taxpayer just signs what the tax preparer puts in front of them," said Jean Ann Fox of the Consumer Federation of America, one of several groups fighting the changes.


You can't expect to protect people from their own stupidity. If the preparer can't get the tax return data this way, they can just have their customers fill out a 'financial worksheet' and sell that instead. If you're stupid enough to 'just sign' anything, you're going to have your privacy violated. This ruling is moot.

Re:From TFA: (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966411)

You can't expect to protect people from their own stupidity.

There is a difference between protecting people from stupidity and protecting them from naivety. No-one is an expert in every field, and no-one has time to make themselves into one. The law should encourage/require popular services to work as the public would expect, not encourage the exact opposite.

Lets get this straight (2, Insightful)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965937)


The IRS wants to make it easier for people that I (may) do business with in processing my taxes to sell my tax information to marketers and whatnot?

Let me think what is on my tax info (I'm not rich and don't have a tax accountant, and I'm ignorant of needing such additional stuff).

My SSN.

My income.

My major debts (mortgage interest writeoff and student loan interest writeoff).

Doesn't equifax, and the other companies that collect and sell this information already have that and more?

My tinfoil hat might be suffering from a large dose of gamma radiation, but isn't this stuff already public knowledge?

Granted, the additional provisions for more people to be able to sell this information does absolutely nothing to my benefit, but I see where having more avenues to get to what is already practically in the public domain already is going to harm me any more.

Re:Lets get this straight (3, Informative)

Suidae (162977) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966084)

Yes, the credit reporting agencies already have that information, AND they already sell it if you have not Opted Out [optoutprescreen.com] . This link is to the official site that lets you opt-out online, you can find the same link with Google keywords "opt out credit"

Those credit card offers in the mail that offer pre-approved cards are often based on information pulled from lists created and sold by the credit reporting agencies. This is an opt-out list, if you haven't told them not to sell your info, they are selling it to credit companies, insurance companies and debit collectors.

If you are interested in privacy, opt out now.

Re:Lets get this straight (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966143)

I don't live at the United States, so I may be completely wrong here. But I think you should add "every single stuff" that you own to that list. Also, I don't think those are really at the publick knowledge, several people complain about giving their SSN here on /., and the others should be know only by your employer (#2), the banks that you have debt (#3), and the government (all). Nobody else should know that.

Re:Lets get this straight (1)

justins (80659) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966313)

Doesn't equifax, and the other companies that collect and sell this information already have that and more?

My tinfoil hat might be suffering from a large dose of gamma radiation, but isn't this stuff already public knowledge?

Your credit report is not "public knowledge".

Re:Lets get this straight (1)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966496)

Your credit report is not "public knowledge".

Its more public knowledge than it is my knowledge.

A nominal fee gets you the contents of my credit report. So, no I guess its not public knowledge, its publicly available knowledge.

Re:Lets get this straight (1)

justins (80659) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966565)

A nominal fee gets you the contents of my credit report.

No, actually it doesn't.

Re:Lets get this straight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14966581)

A few other things...

The banks/inventment houses that you do business with, the balances on some types of retirement accounts, how well you are doing with your investments (capitol gains, interest income, etc.), and other information like foriegn interests, etc.

The names, birthdates & social security numbers of your kids, spouse and other dependents.

Major life events - births, deaths, inheritance, changing jobs, marital status, disability, large healthcare expenses, buying/selling property, etc.

As you and others have suggested some of this (but not all) is already available, though it might take some digging to get at it and correlate it. And some of the sources might be unreliable or out of date.

Here you have it all in one place, updated yearly, and guarenteed to be accurate under penalty of law. Sounds like an identity thieves/scam artists/marketers wet dream.

Excellent! (3, Funny)

xmedar (55856) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965948)

Just think of the possibilities, like blackmailing people by telling them you will query their deductions with the IRS and get them audited, you could get a raise out of your boss, have random people give you money, get dates with pretty girls (hey this is /.), the possibilities are endless.

Why not? (2, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965986)

After all, under their current procedures, people in India who were hired at Indian Minimum Wage already have access to your information. All it takes is a good memory to steal your identity. Which is why I used TurboTax previous to this- and may be switching next year if their EULA doesn't include a privacy clause.

nothing is personal anymore (2, Insightful)

slackaddict (950042) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965987)

Every apply for a grocery store discount card? Ever wonder where those "pre-approved credit cards come from? Ever apply for a loan?

Sadly, nothing is personal... not your ethnicity, not your income level, not your educational background, not your browsing habits, not your spending habits, not your tv viewing habits, etc... Maybe this will wake enough people up to change the way data about our lives is traded and sold to anyone with some green.

Re:nothing is personal anymore (1)

Suidae (162977) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966142)

Yes, the credit reporting agencies already have that information, AND they already sell it if you have not Opted Out [optoutprescreen.com] . This link is to the official site that lets you opt-out online, you can find the same link with Google keywords "opt out credit"

Those credit card offers in the mail that offer pre-approved cards are often based on information pulled from lists created and sold by the credit reporting agencies. This is an opt-out list, if you haven't told them not to sell your info, they are selling it to credit companies, insurance companies and debit collectors.

If you are interested in privacy, opt out now.

Re:nothing is personal anymore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14966417)

Yeah thanks to Safeway now everybody knows that James K. Polk uses my credit card.

Customer data? (1, Informative)

dedeman (726830) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965989)

So, will this ruling allow H&R to sell data given to them (sold to them?) by the IRS, or is this saying that the IRS is allowing H&R Block to sell data from H&R Block customers? If it is the latter, so what? You think that companies with whom you do business don't sell your data to 3rd parties for the purpose of marketing?

Quick solution: Do your own taxes

I do my own taxes every year, including taxable income, non taxable income, capital gains/losses, etc. It takes a bit of fortitude, but the average /.er has poured time into learning how to recompile a kernel. Try applying the same principle to learning how to do your own taxes.

Of the two inevitabilities in life, one is not Linux. /flame suit on/

Re:Customer data? (2, Informative)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966097)

When you do your own taxes for a partnership or foreign investment, I'll be impressed. The tax prep software give you nice easy to fill out forms that feed into the final stuff but you are basically on your own as to how to fill them out. Until one owns a business I'd agree at that point you are likely enough to miss out on a decent portion of tax planning (ie if you structured a transaction this way rather than that way you would save on taxes). Those change frequently enough that unless you are paying high dollar (more than say H&R Block) for tax advice you probably won't be getting it in the service rendered.

Re:Customer data? (1)

dedeman (726830) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966332)

Yes, but I would dare say that the average H&R Block patron or /.er does not have to fill out such types of tax forms per fiscal year.

When I say "do your own taxes", I mean exactly that. It behooves the individual to look at the broad range of tax options available to them, to stay abreast of current tax law and structure, IMHO.

This is assuming that you are not in need of an accountant to prepare your taxes, are of sounds enought mind to do your taxes, and organized enough to find (without too much difficulty) pertinent documentation.

Re:Customer data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14966326)

"Quick solution: Do your own taxes"

Yeah... in the spirit of this wise advice, here are a couple of more "quick solutions" for idiot citizens like you: do your own policing, do your own health care, do your own education, do your own banking, do your own army, do your own government, do your own state.

Re:Customer data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14966546)

It's not a bad idea. I already did my own education and do my own banking. Health care could hardly be any worse, but it would surely be cheaper. As far as the army, one we did ourselves probably wouldn't be invading Iraq, and the own policing thing might just happen anyway, if certain neighbors of mine don't quit playing loud music and smoking pot in the pool and throwing the butts in my yard all night.

I'd settle for just paying your own bills as a starter -- if we had a balenced budget and people didn't hold such huge mortgages and credit card debt, a lot of other problems we have would go away. For example, without mortgages and credit cards my nieghbors would be sleeping under a bridge, which would suit me just fine.

Re:Customer data? (1)

dedeman (726830) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966574)

Or, let the gov't take care of your every need, and don't worry about things like self reliance, or civic responsibility.

Or, many of the things which you mentioned as "quick solutions", people actually do. I know people who do their own policing (militias, bear arms, abide by societal laws), do their own health care (holisitic health/healing), do their own education (home schooling), do their own banking (getting off their ass to go to the bank and do crazy things like save their money). Your other suggestions are illegal in many instances, however, people would do had they the opportunity.

Are you saying it's unwise to do your own taxes? Or that it's not our responsibility as citizens.

How evil is H&R Block? (5, Interesting)

DysenteryInTheRanks (902824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14965994)

This just adds to the many reasons NOT to use H&R Block:
  • H&R Block successfully lobbied to severely curtail an innovative California program to assist poor people filling out their taxes (Source: This article in Mother Jones [motherjones.com] , a regular [wikipedia.org] National Magazine Award-winner)

  • H&R Block charges close to 500 percent for short-term tax refund loans. These loans are predominantely used by poor people claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit. (Source: NY Times Reporter David Cay Johnston's excellent book "Perfectly Legal" and this MSNBC article [msn.com] about the state of California suing H&R Block.)

  • I have completed the full 1040 for four tax years, including accounting for capital losses and miscellaneous income and interest, and it's just NOT THAT HARD to do your own taxes.

Key point in the article (2, Insightful)

trcooper (18794) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966001)

The proposed rules, which would become effective 30 days after a final version is published, would require a tax preparer to obtain written consent before selling tax information.

So, I don't see a problem. If for some reason, say free preparation, someone wants to give away this information, isn't that their choice? As long as I have the ability to say no to this, I don't see a problem.

Personal information is a commodity today. If you want to sell it, you should have that right. If you want to keep it private you should have a choice to do that as well.

Land of the free? (1)

NoSuchGuy (308510) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966022)

Land of the free?

That was a loooooooooooooong time ago!

Good! I like getting FUCKED OVER ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14966057)


Good! I like getting FUCKED OVER ! Don't you ?

Attention Hell: Here I come, and in a handbasket.

You're not protecting your privacy the... (1)

thehubbell (928572) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966061)

best you can if government know you made money. Not that you do that.

Bad News for Nerds (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966092)

The IRS is quietly moving to loosen the once-inviolable privacy of federal income-tax returns. If it succeeds, accountants and other tax-return preparers will be able to sell information from individual returns - or even entire returns - to marketers and data brokers.

"That's a disturbing trend among Washington officials lately," McConnell said. "They'll offer a modest consumer protection in one area in exchange for dramatic weakening of consumer protections in another area, and then try to convince the public that it's all in our interests."
"I think this just flew under the radar screen for so many people," McConnell said.


Oh Boy! Does that mean they can spy on us, sell our personal data and then throw us in prison without contacting our lawyers - all in the same day? Where do I sign up?

Re:Bad News for Nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14966449)

You signed up the day you were born nerd.

I JUST CALL IRS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14966194)

called the irs @
1-800-829-1040

spoke with a irs worker person
said that you have to sign a privacy aggrement
when you get your taxes done
that they will not disclose your info.
IF YOU DON'T THEN THEY CAN SELL IT to a third party
also stated that this is not a NEW LAW
it has always been in effect like this
and that third part "vendors" get the
info from them all the time

Proposed solutions: personal data as IP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14966225)

1) Let the proposal go through
2) class action suit against IRS
30 demand legislation which restricts that who can authorize trading your personal data, which was submitted to corporations to allow them to provide service for you, not for trading your data
4) demand your tax prep company to amend the contract in which you explicitly deny the right for them to sell, lease or any other ways to profit from your personal data, in which you clearly state that any such violation will be dealt by the courts at your choice (make sure it's not in Delaware, which is a heaven for corporations, that's why most of the companies name Delaware as jurisdiction for any future legal actions)
5) organize boycotts against companies which ignore your request and participate in trading personal data that you never sold them, but provided for them in order to enable them to provide service for you
6) demand legislation that all your personal data, collected by a corporation should be destroyed, once you are not the customer of the corporation. Corporations should issue you a certificate of proof that your personal data was destroyed and a declaration that it has not been, will not be sold, traded to any third party.
7) organize class action suit against all corporations, cought trading your personal data without your explicit permission that allows them to profit from such transaction. Demand compensation and punitive payments which are based to financial compensation demanded for software, IP, etc. violation in current or past cases, aggrevated by the fact that your personal information is as unique as any intellectual property owned by any corporation.

shocker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14966240)

IRS to screw taxpayer yet again.

Film at 11.

It's already against the law to share your stuff (5, Informative)

Watchman_ds (238262) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966256)

Once again, the media has overstated a story to attract attention to a non-issue. Regardless of what the IRS decides to do about tax preparers sharing tax information, this practice is already regulated by another law: the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act(GLBA) [ftc.gov] .

GLBA was passed in 1999 to modernize aspects of the banking industry. Title V prevents financial institutions from selling consumer data without consent from the consumer. Remember a couple of years ago every bank, credit card company, loan agency, and anyone else who touched your money flooded your mailbox with Privacy Policy notices and "opt-out" statements? That was GLBA.

The best part is that GLBA classifies tax preparers as financial institutions [ftc.gov] , so H&R Block must provide the same protections to your information that a bank would (or should).

The proposed IRS rule change [slashdot.org] under section 1 specifically cites GLBA and points out that this rule change has no impact on the GLBA requirements.

Sorry to all you privacy alarmists out there, but this "Privacy Bomb" for the IRS is a dud.

Best deal ever!!!!! (1)

protich (961854) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966277)

Since your personal info get sold anyways....why not profit? Here is the plan; Support the move and just require that you get 10% of the selling price. This is more like adsense...managed by IRS. The money goes towards your taxes and the extra get sent to you when you file for returns.

Re:Best deal ever!!!!! (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966385)

Somebody should set up a database of people who are willing to sell their information, and whenever this is looked up they get a cut.

Re:Best deal ever!!!!! (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966469)

Support the move and just require that you get 10% of the selling price.

We still lose badly.

$100 each, in aggregate for 100,000 people, is a lot of money.
$10 back to you or I is chicken feed.

More Info = Greater Chance of Identity Theft (2, Informative)

rabun_bike (905430) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966475)

The biggest concern I see about 3rd parties holding a complete picture of your finances is identity theft. I recently finished an encryption project for a fairly large company that had millions (as in m) of unencrypted credit card and financial data available to anyone in the IT department for the taking with an iPod or a USB drive.

The more information someone can gleen about you the greater chance they can go out and get a car loan, house loan, access your bank accounts, or get various other forms of credit in your name. People should be concerned because there is no magic bullet to protecting yourself. Credit monitoring might catch activity but when you have to carry around a police report to keep from getting arrested you may not feel like that credit monitoring was the best solution. Identity theft victims spend years trying to rebuild their credit reports after an identity theft. Imagine not being able to open a bank account, get a job, apply for a credit card, get a load for car, a mortgage, a student loan or having the APR on your current cards go from 9% to 30% when you credit score gets trashed and there are police records with your name on it for writing bad checks and stealing cars on loan.

Data theft is much easier than robbing at gun point. Your only protection is your data. The more data out there in 3rd party hands, the greater the risk. It's a simple as that.

no valid reason (1)

dlc3007 (570880) | more than 8 years ago | (#14966491)

Under no circumstances can this be considered a "good thing" for US citizens. Since when did the government exist to serve and protect corporate interests rather than people?
I know.... it's a stupid question.
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