The Internal Revenue Service has not yet complied with a May 2007 federal order to remove unnecessary use of Social Security numbers from correspondence with citizens, which can lead to identity theft, according to a recent report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
According to the report, the Office of Management and Budget gave federal agencies 120 days to develop a plan to eliminate the unnecessary collection and use of Social Security numbers and 18 months to implement the plan.
Although the IRS has developed the plan, it has yet to draft a detailed implementation plan.
In 2010, the IRS mailed more than 42 million notices and letters to individual taxpayers for various reasons, including balance due notices. Most of those included taxpayers’ Social Security numbers because they required the taxpayers to respond to the IRS.
The IRS submitted the release of its plan to reduce or eliminate the use of Social Security numbers to the Department of the Treasury in November 2007, and has provided three releases of its plan since then, the last in February 2009.
But to date, it has only redacted or shortened taxpayers’ Social Security numbers from a small number of systems, notices and forms, and there are no target dates for decisions on whether taxpayers’ Social Security numbers can be removed from notices and letters, according to the Inspector General’s report.
In a response to the audit, the IRS said it would file timely updates to its plan. The agency also said it was working on replacing the Social Security numbers on public correspondence with barcodes to protect personal information.
To be sure your information is safe, shred all unneeded documentation containing your personal information, such as Social Security numbers, before you dispose of it.
You should also make sure to not include the number when you reply to correspondence if you will be mailing your letter from an unsecured mailbox. Your letter could be stolen, along with your personal information.
You should put your mail, particularly any that contains sensitive information, into a secured post office box, or take it into the post office.