The private information of 120,000 taxpayers was inadvertently made public for about a year on the IRS government website, the IRS has confirmed.
On Friday, the IRS admitted that “some machine-readable” data on certain 990-T forms, which should have remained private, was accidentally made available through the website’s search engine, according to NPR.
Both 501(c)(3) organizations — non-profit groups like charities, trusts, and religious organizations — and non-501(c)(3)s are required to submit an annual 990-T form for “unrelated business income,” which pertains to income which is not exempt from federal income tax. The 990-T forms of all 501(c)(3)s are made public by the IRS, pursuant to federal law.
However, some income of private organizations and individuals normally exempt from federal income tax is still taxable. Retirement accounts built with pre-tax contributions are just one example. The IRS is not supposed to make public the 990-T forms submitted by these non-501(c)(3)s, but due to a human coding error, tens of thousands of them were made publicly available.
While the IRS laments that some private information, such as business names and contact information, was unfortunately disclosed, it insisted that none of the information disclosed is considered highly sensitive and should not compromise any individual or organization’s credit.
“[T]he data does not include Social Security numbers, detailed account-holder information or individual income tax returns,” a statement from the IRS said.
The IRS also claimed that the individual responsible for the error realized the mistake and took corrective action immediately. When exactly the error was made and when it was corrected are both unclear.
The IRS is obligated to issue a report to Congress whenever it discovers an error which impacts more than 100,000 people. In a letter addressed to the chairman on the Committee of Homeland Security, Bennie Thompson, IRS representative Anna Canfield Roth said: “The agency removed the errant files from IRS.gov, and the IRS will replace them with updated files in next few weeks. The IRS also will be working with groups that routinely use the files to update remove the erroneous files and replace them with the correct versions as they become available.”
“The IRS will contact all impacted filers in the coming weeks,” Canfield Roth added.