On March 18, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service announced that one of its employees had taken home a computer thumb drive containing unencrypted data relating to 20,000 agency workers. The employee then plugged the thumb drive into an unsecure home computer network. While the thumb drive did not contain any data relating to persons outside the Internal Revenue Service, it still put 20,000 individuals at risk of theft of identity and/or financial assets.
Commissioner John Koskinen described the data breach as an “isolated event.” Isolated or not, his statement likely does not give any solace to the 20,000 affected IRS workers. This data breach may have been narrower in scope than the recent Target Corp. data breach, but it nevertheless illustrates how vulnerable we are to data breaches and potential theft of identity and/or financial assets in this electronic era.
We have to constantly safeguard the personal information we receive from our clients, as well as our own personal information. Loss of client information could easily lead to liability.
Larry J. Brant is a Shareholder in Garvey Schubert Barer, a law firm based out of the Pacific Northwest, with offices in Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; New York, New York; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing, China. Mr. Brant practices in the Portland office. His practice focuses on tax, tax controversy and transactions. Mr. Brant is a past Chair of the Oregon State Bar Taxation Section. He was the long term Chair of the Oregon Tax Institute, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Portland Tax Forum. Mr. Brant has served as an adjunct professor, teaching corporate taxation, at Northwestern School of Law, Lewis and Clark College. He is an Expert Contributor to Thomson Reuters Checkpoint Catalyst. Mr. Brant is a Fellow in the American College of Tax Counsel. He publishes articles on numerous income tax issues, including Taxation of S Corporations, Reasonable Compensation, Circular 230, Worker Classification, IRC § 1031 Exchanges, Choice of Entity, Entity Tax Classification, and State and Local Taxation. Mr. Brant is a frequent lecturer at local, regional and national tax and business conferences for CPAs and attorneys. He was the 2015 Recipient of the Oregon State Bar Tax Section Award of Merit.