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Rep. John Lewis on Need for Private Debt Collectors to Better Protect Taxpayer Data

August 2, 2018
Press Release

Today, the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released the results of its July 30th report on private collection agency security.  The report underscores the continuing challenges taxpayers face due to the inefficiencies and flaws of private debt collection of outstanding tax debt.  In nearly every instance, the in-house debt collection of IRS agents proves far more cost-effective, humane, and efficient than outside private debt collection.

In this case, TIGTA explored what kind of security risk taxpayers face by using private agencies for debt collection.  It found that, even though the IRS requires private collector technology – work stations, servers, networks and mobile units – to be scanned monthly to ensure the integrity of taxpayer data stored within the devices, private collectors were not submitting to these monthly scans.  It found that many did not repair these vulnerabilities in a timely way when they were detected by scanners.  Investigators discovered that one organization did not even block the ability of mobile devices to connect to systems that had the capability to store or process IRS data.  The report warned that some taxpayer data may have already been breached.

Rep. John Lewis, the ranking member on the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee and a serious critic of the mounting problems associated with private debt collection, made this comment regarding the findings of the new report:

“Time and time again, we found problems with the administration of the IRS’ private debt collection program.  In recent months, the National Taxpayer Advocate repeatedly reported problems in the targeting of low-income taxpayers.  Today, the Inspector General’s report once again underscores why the private debt collection program must end.  

“It is clear that the private collection companies are not protecting taxpayer information and not reporting their security weaknesses to the IRS.  It is alarming that one company had over 300 instances of security weaknesses on its computer system in one month; a company also left an envelope containing taxpayer checks in an open tray next to an exit door with no security camera.  These are only two of the examples in the report that demonstrate why this program must end.

“Securing taxpayer information and protecting taxpayers from theft are nonnegotiable standards in tax administration.  This most recent report’s findings are alarming and require prompt and strong Congressional oversight.  I strongly urge my Republican colleagues to hold a hearing immediately so we can publicly discuss this important report.”