The Internal Revenue Service disclosed that it unintentionally uploaded sensitive information about almost 120,000 people online before deleting it right afterwards.
Prior to making a public announcement on its website, the error was first disclosed in a letter emailed to prominent congressional leaders on Friday.
It happened only one month after the IRS received an additional $80 billion in funds from Congress, along with the hiring of over 87,000 new agents. Of that, more than $45 billion is used to close a huge tax gap between what Americans owe in taxes and what they actually pay.
According to the IRS, the information that was made temporarily public came from the Form 990-T, which is frequently needed by people who have individual retirement accounts invested in master limited partnerships, real estate, or other income-producing assets.
The government claims that it disclosed the individuals’ names, contact details, and IRA income declarations. Later, a Treasury Department audit confirmed that neither the Social Security numbers nor the full details of individual income were included in the data.
“’The files have been removed from IRS.gov and will be replaced with updated files in the near future. In addition, the IRS also will be working with groups that routinely use the files to 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,’” the agency said in a statement.
“The IRS is continuing to review this situation. The Treasury Department has instructed the IRS to conduct a prompt review of its practices to ensure necessary protections are in place to prevent unauthorized data disclosures,” Anna Canfield Roth, the Treasury Department’s acting assistant secretary for management, further noted.