IRS takes steps to protect identity of workers in effort to deter personal threats

WASHINGTON (AP) — In an effort to deter threats aimed at IRS employees, the agency said Thursday it will start limiting workers’ personal identifying information on communications with taxpayers.

The change begins next month.

The Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration said in a report this week that it was “concerned that taxpayers and anti-government or anti-tax groups with malevolent intent may use the Internet or social media to track down and identify IRS employees, their families, their homes, and personal information to threaten, intimidate, or locate them for physical violence.”

The IRS said it will remove workers’ first names from communications, leaving their last names and respective Mr., Ms., or a gender-neutral title. Phone numbers will still be included in communications.

The decision comes as the agency has received increased attention after the climate, health care and tax legislation signed into law by President Joe Biden last year included $80 billion funding for tax collection efforts.

Since then, misinformation has spread online, including by Republican lawmakers, that 87,000 armed agents authorized to use deadly force were going to crack down on taxpayers of all earnings levels.

In August, IRS leadership announced that it would conduct a comprehensive review of the safety at its 600 facilities nationwide, after increased threats to workers were tied to the conspiracy theories.

“For me this is personal. I’ll continue to make every effort to dispel any lingering misperceptions about our work,” then-Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a letter to workers.

New IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel said last month that no hiring boost is foreseen for the criminal investigation unit, which represents 3% of the agency’s workforce and employed roughly 2,077 special agents as of the 2022 budget year, according to the IRS’ annual report.

Under the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, contact information for IRS employees must be included on manually generated correspondence. That includes the worker’s name and phone number.

Kenneth Corbin, commissioner of the IRS’ wage and investment division, said in a letter to the inspector general’s office that “we will take steps to limit the amount of personally identifiable information of our employees provided on manually generate correspondence while remaining compliant” with the law.

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