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IRS to Allow Tax Preparers to Sell Your Info? 289

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the personal-tax-software-sales-set-to-skyrocket dept.
merkel writes "The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the IRS has proposed rule changes allowing tax-return preparers, like H&R Block, to sell an individual's return information to marketers and data brokers. The proposed rule [PDF], which does contain some substantive protections for the processing of electronic returns, was published in the Federal Register on December 8, 2005. The official comment period has passed, but hearings will be held this month."
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IRS to Allow Tax Preparers to Sell Your Info?

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  • by Tominva1045 (587712) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:45PM (#14965840)


    Note to self: re-read the EULA on Turbo Tax.
    • Re:note to self-- (Score:2, Interesting)

      by nelomolen (128271)
      I have a feeling that this already happens without a seal of approval...

      My credit score dropped 58 points following filing my 2005 taxes, with no information contained within my credit reports (at all three bureaus!) having changed. The only 'new' information available was that I made substantially less in 2005 than in any other previous year, but there are 'only' three parties with that information: Intuit, the IRS, and myself.
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:45PM (#14965841) Journal
    Oh no, my information is going to be sold and the government is going to allow tax preparers to sell it!

    *gasp*

    Let's narrow our fears on something a little more worrisome regarding privacy and the United States Government.

    Ever filled out census information? Because, if you have, your information is available to anyone via a [peoplefinders.com] number [zabasearch.com] of [addresses.com] sites [integrascan.com]. That's right, for as cheap as an $8-$10 fee, people can find out what income range you are in along with a variety of other facts about you. They can also find out where you live for free!

    I would normally thank god that I have a very non-unique name but if I enter my hometown and state, there I am listed five times with my address and parent's phone number. I was just a kid when I lived there! The best part is that if you click my name, they take the liberty to plug my address into Mapquest and Google Map bars in case you don't have the time to copy and paste it in there!

    Go ahead, now try your name.

    *cups his hand to his ear listening for the sound of a million nerds enshrouding themselves in tin foil*

    I'm not worried about my personal information being sold to marketers ... you can send me all the marketing offers and SPAM you want. I am worried about someone with my same name trying to pass their credit card debt off on me. And I'm also worried about anyone I know who might have a problem with a stalker.

    Do you know what your government is doing with your census data?
    • by jcr (53032) <.jcr. .at. .mac.com.> on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:48PM (#14965883) Journal
      Ever filled out census information? Because, if you have, your information is available to anyone

      I only filled out the information they need for the constitutional purpose of the census. The rest of it is none of their damned business.

      -jcr
    • by Suidae (162977) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:59PM (#14965995)
      I am worried about someone with my same name trying to pass their credit card debt off on me

      This isn't really much of a problem if you keep an eye on your credit reports. If something shows up that isn't yours, force the credit reporting agency to verify the entry. They'll try to avoid doing this because its troublesome for them and they don't really care if the info is right or not (as long as is right enough across millions of people to be useful to businesses). Force them to actually verify with the reporting creditor. If they verify it, contact that creditor (Via mail) and force them to verify that the debit is yours. They'll try to get out of that too, and may send you improper verification. Keep after them and force them to send proper verification and proof that they are authorized by the original creditor to collect the debit. If the debit is not yours, at this point you win.

      Details about these processes and the laws that make them work can be found on the creditboards.com [creditboards.com] forums. In particular read about "Debit Verification" and the "The One-Two Punch". These are extremely effective techniques for getting inaccurate items off your credit record (or getting rid of reports from debit collectors who are not properly authorized to collect valid debits).
      • Interesting... my credit card company CALLED ME the other day to confirm a transaction. They've done it in the past too. I've had a couple of problems with places double billing and as soon as I've noticed I've called the CC company, they said they'd take care of it, and usually BOTH transactions were credited back to me.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        I will gladly accept any and all debits, mine or not. Now, debt on the other hand...
      • The primary drawback of the creditboards.com information is that it is splattered across hundreds of message board posts. Start with the Index and Starting Point [creditboards.com] thread and spend at least 10 hours on self-education before posting any questions. As usual, most questions have been asked and answered many times before.

        Another good resource about credit repair is GoodMortgage.com's How To Fix Credit Report Errors [goodmortgage.com] articles.
    • by Steve B (42864) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @02:04PM (#14966058)
      Ever filled out census information?

      I filled out the parts that are necessary for the Constitutional purpose of the census. For the rest, I amused myself by figuring out the most misleading possible technically true answer.

    • Well, it's my information. I am paying them to process and file my tax returns. Nothing more, nothing less. If they are going to sell the information needed to do a task I paid them to do, they owe me money. You want to sell my personal information? Pay me $50 for the privilege of doing my taxes.
    • by Guppy06 (410832)
      "Ever filled out census information?"

      You don't need to fill out all that information. The only questions the Census needs to ask are:
      • How many people (other than untaxed Indians) live in your household?
      • Of those, how many are men over the age of 21?
      • Of those, how many are enfranchised?
      Anything else is extraneous.
    • People finders was a bit spooky. It was able to list most of the places in the US I lived, and my immediate relatives, living and dead. Good news, is that nothing in there on my 20 year old son.

      The amusing thing is that the database also includes 29 entries for I P Freely.
    • Ever filled out census information? Because, if you have, your information is available to anyone via a number of sites. That's right, for as cheap as an $8-$10 fee, people can find out what income range you are in along with a variety of other facts about you. They can also find out where you live for free!

      wouldn't you prefer a tab-separated values document (plain ASCII) or excel spreadsheeds instead? it's much easier to process! and free! [census.gov] and it's well-organized [census.gov] for ease-of-use!

      disclosure: in one o

    • I don't have (so much) a problem of someone knowing my name and address and income (i don't like it, but eh i can deal with it, i am open about that)...hell i am in the phone book (well i used to be...now i do not own a phone, my company pays for mine). I have a problem with say oh, my social security number being sold, with my drivers license, and my bank account, and my name, and income, and my job, and my this and that....All that information is INSANELY private. If my CPA (who charges me $300/filing)
    • I've used Intellius myself to look up some old college friends. It doesn't have anything at all straight from their census forms.

      I think it's misleading to say that information you put on your census form is given/sold to private parties. It's only made available tabulated to the census block level. A census block is chosen to be the smallest geographic area that gives respondents a reasonable level of privacy.

      The highly specific information that these sites have some from credit reports and privately am
  • Enough is ENOUGH. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032)
    Put an end to the IRS gathering this information on every single person on the country. Support the FairTax [fairtax.org].

    -jcr
    • Re:Enough is ENOUGH. (Score:4, Informative)

      by l2718 (514756) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:57PM (#14965981)
      Since the main arguments for and against various tax reform proposals depend on much more serious problems with the US Federal tax system, I think the increased taxpayer privacy attribute of the national sales tax proposal is only of marginal importance in this field. Moreover, I feel I must point out that naming your proposal the "FairTax" rather than the "National Sales Tax" is political demagoguery at its worst. This is without considering the merits of the proposal.
    • Agreed... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by C10H14N2 (640033) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @02:23PM (#14966237)
      Enough is enough...of calling a GS tax "fair."

      At a certain point (generally at about $100k), the vast majority people quickly stop consuming their income and start hoarding it. Oh sure, some will burn through it on booze, drugs and hookers, but most start shoving that capital back into capital. The higher that income gets, the smaller the percentage of it that is consumed. So, your "fair" tax would, dollar-for-dollar, tax someone making $100k the same as someone making $1M...and I got news for you, that "used property" exclusion? Well, they ain't makin' any new land, so guess what will happen to the price of dirt? Well, until we're vacationing on the Moon.

      Business purposes = no tax? Again, people nearing or exceeding $100k routinely put their entire damned lives on Schedule C (or into corporations) for exactly this purpose. Even if they _do_ consume above that level, it will surely be claimed as business expense--and that's determined at the point of sale or are we back to filing returns to prove it? Well, guess what, if you can avoid taxes completely by claiming business expense...you're going to find a great number of entrepreneurs and if they have to file returns, what's the benefit again in terms of paperwork and complexity reduction? If they don't, how do we prove it was business-related? Hmm.

      A "prebate?" So, everyone gets a monthly check for the taxes on the first $14k of income, assumed to be consumed? Gah... That is going to eliminate the bureaucracy precisely HOW? So, people under $14k will get prebates for whatever % of $14k or will they have to file returns to prove exactly how poor they are? That'll really free up the ol' paperwork and fraud burden, now, won't it? What if it's a family of 12 and all but one are saving every penny. Now do we file returns to prove our consumption of "necessities?" Oy vey. ...and, come on, this "hidden taxes" routine is just lame. We need 2.5T to keep the proverbial lights on in the federal government. You WILL PAY FOR IT SOMEHOW. You don't need to go through all the individual taxes to know what the government is taking. Just look at the budget. It comes to about $17k per working adult. Yeah, that's a lot of cash--and that's your "fair share." Well, actually, it's about $8333 per person, so if you have a family of four, you really should be ponying up about $33k instead of getting all those child credits while sucking up the education budget.

      The tax structure we have now is designed to induce certain behavior in many sectors. It is also designed to pay for certain _types_ of consumption, like gas taxes paying for the interstate pavement based on use. You consume pavement, you pay for the pavement. This sort of all-encompassing tax would shift the bureaucratic burden, it wouldn't eliminate it.

      Really, I think the "Fair Tax" crowd has critically examined the current problem, which is certainly well due and admirable, but I don't think they've critically examined their solution, which on even first sight is fraught with all the same problems as the existing system -- and totally ignores a number of problems that the existing system deals with quite extensively.
      • That's a lot of text for someone who fundamentally has no clue.
        Who do you think opens businesses? Who do you think buys stock? Who do you think purchases big ticket items?
        • You don't see how taxing spending rather than income would dampen the economy? Every average joe is gonna see they untaxed money coming in, and a big free money pool in the stock market, while when purchasing goods the money instantly becomes worth about 3/4 the "held value". Unless you plan to tax stock purchases, this plan would decimate the economy.
      • At a certain point (generally at about $100k), the vast majority people quickly stop consuming their income and start hoarding it. Oh sure, some will burn through it on booze, drugs and hookers, but most start shoving that capital back into capital.

        Which is otherwise known as "investing", which is generally a good thing, providing money for loans, growing businesses, etc.

        "The higher that income gets, the smaller the percentage of it that is consumed. So, your "fair" tax would, dollar-for-dollar, tax s
        • So what? If a millionare wants to reign in his spending to match that of someone making $100K, so what? You may be interested in:

          a millionare has much more at stake in this country, and his property benefits on a continuing basis much more from the social services (such as defense, police forces, fire departments, roads, etc, the courts) than does the property of a person earning $100k. (let alone $30k) It are INVESTMENTS that benefit most from such services, consumed items are consumed and by definition r
        • My question about FairTax is this: If it's revenue neutral, how does the proportion change? Do the lower 50% pay more or less of the total cost?
      • I'm not going to bother responding point by point, because I see someone else already did a great job of that. I would just like to re-iterate that you are misunderstanding most of these issues, and they are all explained on www.fairtaxvolunteer.org more fully... please read that site.

        Really, I think the "Fair Tax" crowd has critically examined the current problem, which is certainly well due and admirable, but I don't think they've critically examined their solution

        Actually, tens of millions has been spent
    • Put an end to the IRS gathering this information on every single person on the country. Support the FairTax.

      I think that this plan and Forbes' flat tax idea are both excellent ideas. I think some of the benefits are (or at least can be): smaller tax burden on the poor, simpler tax code for citizens, no more tax preparation industry, which would be of great benefit to the economy since all of those people are freed up to do something more economically productive.

      Here is the one bad thing I have say abou

      • Yes, one notion. Pass a law forbidding changes to the tax code on even numbered years. That way, software for 2005 taxes could be software for 2005 and 2006 taxes. I wish we could change to a national sales or flat tax, but the change is too radical. Congress likes enacting policy via the tax code. Easier to slip in a tax credit for some favored constituent than hand them an outright check. A vastly simplified tax would kill that game, which would be a good thing, but I don't see it happening. Maybe
        • A vastly simplified tax would kill that game, which would be a good thing, but I don't see it happening.

          If the Berlin wall can be demolished in my lifetime, then we can also dispense with our WW2-era tax system. It will of course be resisted furiously by everyone with a vested interest in the status quo (the congress, the lobbyists, etc.), but the fall of communism was viciously contested, too. If it's all the same to you, I'm not willing to throw in the towel.

          -jcr
  • Well, this rule should not be too alarming -- as long as these companies are up-front about it. What I'd like to see is a premium price for privacy: for an extra $10 (or whatever the value of your personal data is), they promise to never share it. Think of it another way: there's a $10 discount for letting them share your data.

    It would be different if you had to go through these people, but since there are alternatives [TurboTax?] I suspect the market will sort it out. If tax preparation software acqui

    • Hmm...it's my data, I provided it, where's my cut? I'd say $10 for every company my information was sold to. And I get royalties for every time a new company takes it from one of the original buyers. At least that would be incentive to give up your information.
      • It's not your data anymore. This is like you selling me a book and then trying to dictate what tone of voice I use while reading it aloud because it's your poetry.

        Say you decided to sign a contract whereby you gave them the data and allowed them to use it for various purposes, in return for $10. If you didn't like the terms (e.g. you want more than $10, you want royalties, or you don't want them to have your data at all) them you should not have signed the contract in the first place. What the law shou

        • Stop the analogies. They don't work. The contract you have with many corporations means absolutely nothing because it contains a clause that says "We can change this at any time". These clauses need to be prohibited. Business groups would be wise to self-regulate and eliminate them on their own before people get pissed enough to demand that government steps in.
        • It's not your data anymore. This is like you selling me a book and then trying to dictate what tone of voice I use while reading it aloud because it's your poetry.

          Well, technically... that example doesn't completely hold water. Just because you bought my book, CD, DVD or whatever doesn't explicitely allow you to use it for a public performance, unless otherwise noted. So while I cannot tell you what tone of voice you may use when reading it in privacy of youir own home, alone, if you, say, invite a dozen f

      • by hackstraw (262471) * on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @02:04PM (#14966048)
        Hmm...it's my data, I provided it, where's my cut?

        I've been wondering this for years.

        Companies have paid lip service to "privacy" over the years. Most every website and company has a "privacy policy", that often ends with the clause "subject to change without your notice".

        Is there some way that consumers can organize and make their own demands of the terms that determine who they do business with? Kinda like a union for consumers?

        The only answer I've come up with is hiding myself behind a company or corporation and not personally owning any property, but is there a way to do this with other consumers that want to have the same rights?

        • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @02:38PM (#14966394)
          Yeah, it's called a government. You elect representatives that share your views, then they vote to determine a policy that represents the majority. They have absolute power to protect the people. At least, that's how it's supposed to work. Voting for the guy with the prettiest TV commercials kind of short circuits the whole thing.
          • Yeah, it's called a government. You elect representatives that share your views, then they vote to determine a policy that represents the majority. They have absolute power to protect the people. At least, that's how it's supposed to work. Voting for the guy with the prettiest TV commercials kind of short circuits the whole thing.

            Wrong.

            I _vote_ for representatives that share my views, the people I don't vote for get elected, and I suffer.

            Also, in theory, the government works for me, but for some reason, I d
            • That's because you're not a majority. How exactly do you think a hypothetical consumer protection corporation/agency/militant wing would work? You'd get to dictate policy?

              Any government DOES work for you, provided you make them accountable. If the majority of people are in the habit of either not voting or voting for whoever they're told to (ie whoever spent most on campaign ads) then the government will work for whoever provides them with the money to pay for those campaign ads.

              If you actually cast an i
    • Lets say there is a group of people willing to sell to sell their personal information for $10, and this becomes the accepted market price for this information.

      Another group does not wish to share their information at any price.

      A Company shares your personal information without permission, how can you justify any penalty greater than the $10 your information is worth?
    • Here's a similar idea. For an extra $100/week we won't trash your beautiful shop here. Don't think of it as extortion, it's protection.
  • by Aspirator (862748) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:49PM (#14965890)
    It is the individual taxpayers information.

    It was not acquired by the voluntary cooperation of the source.

    If they want to sell it then they need permission from
    the owner of the information, not the IRS's.
    • Bzzt. Wrong answer.

      Filling out your Tax return is "Voluntary, but not optional"

      Look it up. It's true, and the courts have upheld it. It has to be voluntary to get around your 5th ammendment rights against self-incrimination. It's non-optional because of the income tax amendment.
      A somewhat weaselly explaination can be found here http://taxes.about.com/od/taxtrouble/a/back_taxes_ 2.htm [about.com]
    • Or hey, how about this: let's cut out the middleman.

      ATTENTION MARKETERS: I am more than happy to send you a copy of my tax return as part of a special, direct-to-you, promotional offer. Because of market instabilities, the time is right to get onboard this exciting opportunity to buy a copy of my tax return.

      Current price estimates are in the $10-$200 range, but I personally guarantee that will be a small amount larger than whatever number happens to go into Box 12 of the 1040EZ form [irs.gov].

      Couldn't be simpler.
  • by deanj (519759) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:49PM (#14965897)
    As if there's not enough trouble already with identity fraud & getting Social Security numbers of folks.

    What dingbat at the IRS thought this was a good idea?

    You know, one side effect of this is that it might accelerate the Flat Tax [fairtax.org].
    • You know, one side effect of this is that it might accelerate the Flat Tax.

      Ah, yes, the return of the consumption tax. I always wondered what it was like to live in the 19th century. Why not give the modern day robber barons an even bigger help than our government already has?

    • by metamatic (202216) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @03:46PM (#14966975) Homepage Journal
      The "Fair" Tax people want to move the entire tax burden to sales taxes, so that poor people will pay more of the tax burden.

      Flat Tax proponents want to have a flat rate tax on all income, so everyone pays a fair share in direct proportion to how much they can afford.
      • The tiered tax system means that the people the government works the hardest for (the corporations/stinking rich, then the wealthy, then the middle class, then the poor) pay for the THEIR fair share of the work being done for THEM. Anything else would mean lowering the tax on the rich and increasing the tax on the non-rich to the breaking point to make up for it while the government continues to go to war to protect the interests of only the wealhty.
  • Fine by me. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bigtallmofo (695287) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:51PM (#14965915)
    I use TurboTax. I normally pay the $29 fee to electronically file it, but I can just as easily not send it to an intermediary by printing it out and mailing it in.

    It will be interesting to see how many people go back to paper filing their forms directly to the IRS. Should be a nightmare of un-automation for them.
    • Re:Fine by me. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209)
      I file paper. I complete the form with a pencil.

      I'm extremely annoyed that the fed. gov. doesn't just set up a website for e-filing itself. It would save taxpayers and the government millions of dollars on paper forms and processing. It's a clear case of intentional government waste in order to create business opportunities for tax preparation services. Even my humble state of New Mexico has a simple, government run web form for me to file my taxes online. It's not rocket science.

      My business sche

      • I've always done mine by hand as well (close to 30 years of filing now) and have never been able to understand why most people pay someone else to prepare their return. They aren't that complicated and don't really take that much time. I think if most people actually looked at what was required they would kick themselves for not doing it.
        • Re:Fine by me. (Score:3, Informative)

          by donnyspi (701349)
          I completely agree with you. One big reason why people I know pay someone to do the taxes is it is a pain in the butt to list every single stock trade you made during the last year.
        • I've always done mine by hand as well (close to 30 years of filing now) and have never been able to understand why most people pay someone else to prepare their return.

          Pretty simple really - I value my time more than the money it costs to have my taxes prepared. Having done it myself both by hand and with Turbotax, etc, I know how easy it can be to do yourself -- but am still very willing to pay a reasonable fee to just make it go away.
    • A few years ago [infoworld.com] Turbo Tax came out with a version of their software with some nasty DRM/activation scheme [pcmag.com], and was 'usable' on one machine only (you couldn't file or print out your taxes from both your desktop and laptop), and had a few other major gotcha's. I boycotted Turbo Tax after that and started using Tax Cut instead.
    • ...because I see no reason at all to pay a third party to do what I can easily do myself. I'd like to e-file directly with the IRS, but that does not appear to be an option.

      I think it's scandalous that the IRS spends tax dollars sending out mailings promoting e-filing when, according to their own description, this method of submission is available only from the private sector, as a for-profit commercial enterprise. If the H&R Blocks of the world are making money off of e-filing, let them promote it them
      • From what I've heard, they were going to offer free e-filing themselves as it actually saves them money* but H&R and other tax-prep companies sued about 'interference with business' and forced the IRS to stop.

        *No need for manual entry or scanning, forms are automatically checked for accuracy, etc...
  • CPA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thehubbell (928572) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:51PM (#14965919)
    Go to a CPA. CPA's can loose their license to practice as a CPA.

    CPA's ethics guidelines limit who and how a CPA share your information.

    -Peer review
    -Court order
    -and such

    It is a lot worse loose your CPA license than if a evening tax preparer to have to pick up a seasonal job. I doubt HR block would sell your info though even if they could.

  • From TFA: (Score:4, Informative)

    by ivan256 (17499) * on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:52PM (#14965928)
    Critics call the changes a dangerous breach in personal and financial privacy. They say the requirement for signed consent would prove meaningless for many taxpayers, especially those hurriedly reviewing stacks of documents before a filing deadline.

    "The normal interaction is that the taxpayer just signs what the tax preparer puts in front of them," said Jean Ann Fox of the Consumer Federation of America, one of several groups fighting the changes.


    You can't expect to protect people from their own stupidity. If the preparer can't get the tax return data this way, they can just have their customers fill out a 'financial worksheet' and sell that instead. If you're stupid enough to 'just sign' anything, you're going to have your privacy violated. This ruling is moot.
    • You can't expect to protect people from their own stupidity.

      There is a difference between protecting people from stupidity and protecting them from naivety. No-one is an expert in every field, and no-one has time to make themselves into one. The law should encourage/require popular services to work as the public would expect, not encourage the exact opposite.

      • There is a difference between protecting people from stupidity and protecting them from naivety. No-one is an expert in every field, and no-one has time to make themselves into one.

        I'm sorry, but you don't have to be an expert in *anything* to read a document before you sign it. Not reading a contract before signing it isn't naive, it's stupid. That goes for things as simple as a credit card receipt, and should be obvious for something as important as your tax return.

        The law should encourage/require popular
        • There's absolutely no way that a person can go live a normal life and actually read everything they sign. 99% of the time a perfectly rational person would have to refuse the contract ('subject to change with no notice', waiving the right to a trial, and giving up the right of choosing the jurisdiction probably being the worst offenders - clauses that are generally missing from a contract between peers). 90%+ of the time no supplier at all can be found offering a product on sane terms, and you would have to
        • In a world where consumers have no choice but to sign papers stating the other party may change the terms at any time (it's not a contract, it's a terms of service document!) in order to get through their daily lives, what do you propose people do? The government basically lets corporations trample citizens because it's the corporations that line the government coffers and not those mere "citizens"...
  • by hackstraw (262471) * on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:53PM (#14965937)

    The IRS wants to make it easier for people that I (may) do business with in processing my taxes to sell my tax information to marketers and whatnot?

    Let me think what is on my tax info (I'm not rich and don't have a tax accountant, and I'm ignorant of needing such additional stuff).

    My SSN.

    My income.

    My major debts (mortgage interest writeoff and student loan interest writeoff).

    Doesn't equifax, and the other companies that collect and sell this information already have that and more?

    My tinfoil hat might be suffering from a large dose of gamma radiation, but isn't this stuff already public knowledge?

    Granted, the additional provisions for more people to be able to sell this information does absolutely nothing to my benefit, but I see where having more avenues to get to what is already practically in the public domain already is going to harm me any more.

    • by Suidae (162977) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @02:07PM (#14966084)
      Yes, the credit reporting agencies already have that information, AND they already sell it if you have not Opted Out [optoutprescreen.com]. This link is to the official site that lets you opt-out online, you can find the same link with Google keywords "opt out credit"

      Those credit card offers in the mail that offer pre-approved cards are often based on information pulled from lists created and sold by the credit reporting agencies. This is an opt-out list, if you haven't told them not to sell your info, they are selling it to credit companies, insurance companies and debit collectors.

      If you are interested in privacy, opt out now.
    • I don't live at the United States, so I may be completely wrong here. But I think you should add "every single stuff" that you own to that list. Also, I don't think those are really at the publick knowledge, several people complain about giving their SSN here on /., and the others should be know only by your employer (#2), the banks that you have debt (#3), and the government (all). Nobody else should know that.

    • Doesn't equifax, and the other companies that collect and sell this information already have that and more?

      My tinfoil hat might be suffering from a large dose of gamma radiation, but isn't this stuff already public knowledge?

      Your credit report is not "public knowledge".
      • Your credit report is not "public knowledge".

        Its more public knowledge than it is my knowledge.

        A nominal fee gets you the contents of my credit report. So, no I guess its not public knowledge, its publicly available knowledge.

        • A nominal fee gets you the contents of my credit report.

          No, actually it doesn't.
          • No, actually it doesn't.

            OK, then how does Equifax, Experion, and whoever else stay in business?

            You and I are not their customers. Until recently, they did not have consumer level services like identity theft insurance or whatever they sell.

            From what I knew, they sold the information to businesses. I've seen at the bottom of my credit report before where people have checked it in the recent past.

            Am I missing something? Or am I way off base here?

  • Excellent! (Score:3, Funny)

    by xmedar (55856) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:54PM (#14965948)
    Just think of the possibilities, like blackmailing people by telling them you will query their deductions with the IRS and get them audited, you could get a raise out of your boss, have random people give you money, get dates with pretty girls (hey this is /.), the possibilities are endless.
  • Why not? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:58PM (#14965986) Homepage Journal
    After all, under their current procedures, people in India who were hired at Indian Minimum Wage already have access to your information. All it takes is a good memory to steal your identity. Which is why I used TurboTax previous to this- and may be switching next year if their EULA doesn't include a privacy clause.
  • by slackaddict (950042) <(rmorgan) (at) (openaddict.com)> on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:58PM (#14965987) Homepage Journal
    Every apply for a grocery store discount card? Ever wonder where those "pre-approved credit cards come from? Ever apply for a loan?

    Sadly, nothing is personal... not your ethnicity, not your income level, not your educational background, not your browsing habits, not your spending habits, not your tv viewing habits, etc... Maybe this will wake enough people up to change the way data about our lives is traded and sold to anyone with some green.

    • Yes, the credit reporting agencies already have that information, AND they already sell it if you have not Opted Out [optoutprescreen.com]. This link is to the official site that lets you opt-out online, you can find the same link with Google keywords "opt out credit"

      Those credit card offers in the mail that offer pre-approved cards are often based on information pulled from lists created and sold by the credit reporting agencies. This is an opt-out list, if you haven't told them not to sell your info, they are selling it to cr
  • by DysenteryInTheRanks (902824) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:58PM (#14965994) Homepage
    This just adds to the many reasons NOT to use H&R Block:
    • H&R Block successfully lobbied to severely curtail an innovative California program to assist poor people filling out their taxes (Source: This article in Mother Jones [motherjones.com], a regular [wikipedia.org]National Magazine Award-winner)

    • H&R Block charges close to 500 percent for short-term tax refund loans. These loans are predominantely used by poor people claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit. (Source: NY Times Reporter David Cay Johnston's excellent book "Perfectly Legal" and this MSNBC article [msn.com] about the state of California suing H&R Block.)

    • I have completed the full 1040 for four tax years, including accounting for capital losses and miscellaneous income and interest, and it's just NOT THAT HARD to do your own taxes.
  • by trcooper (18794) * <<coop> <at> <redout.org>> on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @01:59PM (#14966001) Homepage
    The proposed rules, which would become effective 30 days after a final version is published, would require a tax preparer to obtain written consent before selling tax information.

    So, I don't see a problem. If for some reason, say free preparation, someone wants to give away this information, isn't that their choice? As long as I have the ability to say no to this, I don't see a problem.

    Personal information is a commodity today. If you want to sell it, you should have that right. If you want to keep it private you should have a choice to do that as well.
    • by null etc. (524767) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @03:05PM (#14966625)
      As long as I have the ability to say no to this, I don't see a problem.

      Sorry to flame, but that's one of the most irresponsibly simplified statements I've seen in this thread.

      Do you think a company like H&R Block is going to hand you a neon orange sheet of paper with 172 pt. font that says "DO YOU WANT US TO SELL YOUR PERSONAL DATA?"

      No. They're going to hide it in one subclause of a 14-page contract agreement, tersely worded so that it doesn't even mention "selling", "personal data", or "yours". It's probably gonna be a single sentence like "Applicant surrenders all rights to proclude the preparer from providing gathered data to third parties." Taxes are stressful enough without having to become a lawyer to avoid being bilked by corporations.

      Wake up and smell the slap in the face.

  • Land of the free?

    That was a loooooooooooooong time ago!
  • The IRS is quietly moving to loosen the once-inviolable privacy of federal income-tax returns. If it succeeds, accountants and other tax-return preparers will be able to sell information from individual returns - or even entire returns - to marketers and data brokers.

    "That's a disturbing trend among Washington officials lately," McConnell said. "They'll offer a modest consumer protection in one area in exchange for dramatic weakening of consumer protections in another area, and then try to convince the p
  • by Watchman_ds (238262) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @02:25PM (#14966256) Journal
    Once again, the media has overstated a story to attract attention to a non-issue. Regardless of what the IRS decides to do about tax preparers sharing tax information, this practice is already regulated by another law: the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act(GLBA) [ftc.gov].

    GLBA was passed in 1999 to modernize aspects of the banking industry. Title V prevents financial institutions from selling consumer data without consent from the consumer. Remember a couple of years ago every bank, credit card company, loan agency, and anyone else who touched your money flooded your mailbox with Privacy Policy notices and "opt-out" statements? That was GLBA.

    The best part is that GLBA classifies tax preparers as financial institutions [ftc.gov], so H&R Block must provide the same protections to your information that a bank would (or should).

    The proposed IRS rule change [slashdot.org] under section 1 specifically cites GLBA and points out that this rule change has no impact on the GLBA requirements.

    Sorry to all you privacy alarmists out there, but this "Privacy Bomb" for the IRS is a dud.

  • The biggest concern I see about 3rd parties holding a complete picture of your finances is identity theft. I recently finished an encryption project for a fairly large company that had millions (as in m) of unencrypted credit card and financial data available to anyone in the IT department for the taking with an iPod or a USB drive.

    The more information someone can gleen about you the greater chance they can go out and get a car loan, house loan, access your bank accounts, or get various other forms of cr
  • by The_REAL_DZA (731082) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @03:03PM (#14966610)
    "IRS to allow tax preparers to offer 'non-disclosure' as a selling point"

    or

    "IRS to allow tax preparers to charge you extra to not sell your information"



    Suddenly tax-prep gets more lucrative. Of course, if they ever come through with that "flat tax" all those guys'll be out of business overnight anyway (and then I can ride to work on a flying pig every morning...)
  • ... in INFAMY...

    "The proposed rule [PDF], which does contain some substantive protections for the processing of electronic returns, was published in the Federal Register on December 8, 2005."

    image word: "magnetic"
  • The official comment period has passed, but hearings will be held this month.

    So how did we not hear about the comment period until after it had expired? Another instance of public information protected by "Beware of the Leopard" signage?
  • One of the companies mentioned sent "free tax software" via US mail earlier this year. Unfortunately some of the mailing labels had the customer's social security number on it. There was some fear that an ID theif could retrieve the mail and find the number, but the vast majority had already taken in their packages. However this still a sloppy practice.
  • I do my own taxes.

What is now proved was once only imagin'd. -- William Blake

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