IRS Tax Tips and Personal Data Protection

Eric Mikkelson |

As tax season is in full swing, we found some helpful suggestions from the IRS website ( with some steps you can take to protect your personal and financial information.

Helpful suggestions when looking for a tax professional:

• Be wary of companies who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
• Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of the refund.
• Use a reputable tax preparer who signs your tax return and provides you with a copy for your records.
• Consider whether the tax preparer will be available to answer questions about your tax return months, or even years, after the return has been filed.
• Before signing your return, review everything and ask questions on anything you don't understand.
• Remember that you, the taxpayer, are always responsible for the information on your tax return. Only sign a final tax form, never sign a blank tax form.
• Find out the tax preparer’s credentials and ask if they have an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). This number is given when a tax preparer is registered with the IRS and is included on tax returns.
• Ask questions to find out more information about the tax preparer. Did you find them through a referral and was that person happy with the service they provided? Does the tax preparer complete any continuing education and/or belong to any organization that provides resources and holds them to a code of ethics?

The IRS also created a Security Awareness Tax Tips page with a series of articles to review -

Please consider these steps the IRS provided to protect yourselves and your data:

Keep Your Computer Secure

• Use security software and make sure it updates automatically; essential tools include using a firewall, virus/malware protection and file encryption for sensitive data
• Treat your personal information like cash, don’t leave it lying around
• Check out companies to find out who you’re really dealing with
• Give personal information only over encrypted websites – look for “https” addresses
• Use strong passwords and protect them. 10-14 digits minimal is best, with a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Using phrases can help you remember, such as “Spr1ng iz comin!”
• Back up your files

Avoid Phishing and Malware

• Avoid phishing emails, texts or calls that appear to be from the IRS, tax companies and other well-known business; instead, go directly to their websites
• Don’t open attachments in emails unless you know who sent it and what it is
• Download and install software only from websites you know and trust
• Use a pop-up blocker
• Talk to your family about safe computing practices

Protect Personal Information

• Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card or documents with your Social Security Number.
• Do not overshare personal information on social media. Information about past addresses, a new car, a new home and your children help identity thieves pose as you.
• Keep old tax returns and tax records under lock and key or encrypted, if electronic.
• Shred tax documents before trashing.

Watch out for IRS impersonators. The IRS provided the following reminders that these are all scams and have been known to change frequently; don’t fall for these:
• The IRS will not call you with threats of jail or lawsuits.
• The IRS will not send you an unsolicited email suggesting you have a refund or that you need to update your account.
• The IRS will not request any sensitive information online.

Forward IRS-related scam emails to
Report IRS-impersonation telephone calls at

Additional steps:

• Check your credit reports annually; check your bank and credit card statements often;
• Review your Social Security Administration records annually: you can sign up for a login to “My Social Security” at