Yesterday, I was honored to again have the opportunity to participate as a speaker at the Internal Revenue Service’s Nationwide Tax Forum 2019 in Washington, D.C. Through a generous grant provided by the American Coalition for Taxpayer Rights to the Pell Center of Salve Regina University, we are able to educate small- and medium-sized tax professional businesses on basic cyber hygiene, recent cyber threats, and the components of a data security program. This is one of my favorite speaking engagements, as the audience laughs at my jokes (well, most of the time, and if it isn’t right before cocktail hour), are eager to learn, and there’s always energy in the room.

The IRS provides a great deal of guidance for tax professionals, and is an important resource to follow via its website. The guidance is easy to understand, relevant and FREE!

We had two great sessions yesterday, and the participants were engaged and committed to implementing data security measures to protect tax payers’ data. One of the things I took away from the audiences is how important encryption technology is for tax professionals. If you are a tax professional, and you are not using encryption technology, look into it and implement it for your clients’ data. Another critical area of attention is data retention. Remember that there are both state and federal laws concerning data retention that tax professionals are required to follow.

Finally, there are civil and criminal penalties that can be assessed for tax professionals if there is an unauthorized disclosure or use of information furnished to a tax professional in connection with an income tax return. (“Criminal penalties” means jail). It also means that you could be responsible for your employees’ actions—which is why employee education is key for tax professionals.

Tax professionals are required to implement a Security Plan. The IRS provides guidance on the core elements of a Security Plan. If you are a tax professional, take advantage of the resources the IRS provides. You might also check out one of the 2019 Tax Forums where Robinson+Cole and CyberScout will be presenting throughout the summer to get some extra tips on data security.