Newport, RI—For the third-consecutive year, the Pell Center will provide cybersecurity awareness training for tax preparation professionals at the annual IRS Nationwide Tax Forum–this year, in an advanced virtual session on the most pressing cyber threats to both individual tax preparers as well as small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the tax industry. The Pell Center’s presentations are made possible by a generous grant by the American Coalition for Taxpayer Rights (ACTR). Pell Center Senior Fellow Francesca Spidalieri and Linn Freedman, Chair of the Data Privacy & Cybersecurity Team and Partner at Robinson&Cole, developed the material to help sensitize tax preparation professionals to the most common cyber threats and vulnerabilities in the tax industry and provide strategies and tools to prevent data theft and lessen the likelihood that their businesses will be impacted by other cybercrimes.
The coronavirus prompted the Pell Center to quickly adapt its trainings to be held virtually beginning July 28, 2020. As Senior Fellow Francesca Spidalieri said “the Internet has become the channel for effective human interaction and the primary way we work, connect, and conduct business. Attackers are taking advantage of our increased reliance on digital tools and broader exposure to cyber risks to ramp up schemes to defraud businesses, credulous consumers, and governments at all levels. As cyber criminals continue to evolve their tactics and target individual tax preparation professionals and other SMBs in the tax industry—often considered the “low hanging fruit”—the training we offer is more important than ever to protect taxpayers and strengthen the integrity of the U.S. tax system as a whole.”
Linn Freedman added that, “tax professionals are prime targets for identity thieves and their clients’ information, including bank and investment accounts, social security numbers, health insurance records, can be a virtual goldmine in the wrong hands. That’s why securing it against a data breach is critical to protect their clients and their business.”
Past Pell Center cybersecurity seminars hosted at Salve Regina University for tax preparers and CPAs and the ACTR-funded trainings at the annual IRS Tax Forums have been integral contributors to the dramatic reduction in fraudulent tax returns. Recent data published by the IRS shows that successful public-private partnerships between government tax agencies and private-sector partners have resulted in a reduction of “the number of taxpayers filing affidavits to report [identity theft by] 80%,” and a decline in “the number of confirmed false-identity returns by 68%.”
The Pell Center’s virtual trainings for tax preparers, both the basic session and the new advanced session are available on the IRS Cybersecurity for Tax Professionals page.