With midterm elections approaching, help us make everyone smarter about the economy. Donate Now
Marketplace Scratch Pad

Dumpsters full of 1040s

Scott Jagow May 21, 2009

I know tax revenue is down, but seriously, you’d think the IRS could afford a few shredders. A report from the Treasury today says sensitive documents about US taxpayers were found in trash cans outside every IRS office visited by investigators.

Investigators visited eight IRS offices in Arizona, Maryland, New York and Utah. They also interviewed IRS managers across the country. From Reuters:

“At every location we visited, we found documents containing PII (personally identifiable information) or other SBU (sensitive but unclassified) information in regular waste containers and/or dumpsters,” it said.

“If security policies are not adequately communicated and adhered to, sensitive taxpayer information and employee data are at an increased risk of disclosure or other improper usage.”

The IRS does have a page that explains how to handle possible Identity Theft cases involving your tax records. But the FAQ’s do not include: “What if the IRS puts my Social Security number in a dumpster behind its office?”

In response to the Treasury’s report, the IRS says it has imposed new rules on waste contracts, including background checks for employees. Doesn’t really solve the problem of putting the documents in the garbage in the first place. But the IRS says it has agreed to the Treasury’s other recommendations for improvements. I assume they include a trip to Office Depot.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.