Dem senator presses IRS on cyber risks for taxpayers during shutdown

Dem senator presses IRS on cyber risks for taxpayers during shutdown
© Stefani Reynolds

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — California monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus | Pence taps career official to coordinate response | Dems insist on guardrails for funding Schiff presses top intel official to declassify part of report on Khashoggi killing Top Trump advisers discuss GOP need to act on health care at retreat with senators MORE (D-Ore.) on Friday pressed the Treasury Department and IRS about possible cyber risks facing taxpayers, questioning whether the threat of identity theft is increasing amid the partial government shutdown.

Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner Mnuchin Sanders blasts Trump for picking 'completely unqualified' Pence for coronavirus response Treasury announces appointment of new IRS watchdog Pence taps career health official to coordinate White House coronavirus response MORE and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig asking them about what impact the shutdown is having on their operations and if there are any cyber implications.

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"Is there increased risk of taxpayer ID theft if lRS tries to maintain normal operations during a shutdown?" Wyden, who's also the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, asked in the letter. "For example, if IRS is working with a skeleton staff as a result of the shutdown, is there an elevated risk that cyber criminals filing fraudulent returns with stolen taxpayer identities will be able to steal taxpayers' refunds? Will IRS be able to detect, let alone thwart, these fraudulent attempts?"

The letter comes amid a shutdown that is now in its 21st day, tying it for the longest in U.S. history.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Congress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary MORE has maintained he will not sign legislation to reopen the government unless it includes $5.7 billion for his proposed border wall. Democrats have refused to provide that funding.

The impasse means federal workers — who just missed their first paychecks on Friday — are entering uncharted territory that's creating financial strain and uncertainty for many government employees.

"My constituents in Oregon are growing increasingly concerned that there may be no resolution in sight," Wyden wrote in the letter. "One of many issues I have been hearing about from them is how an extended shutdown will affect the 2019 tax filing season and the ability of the Internal Revenue Service to process their tax returns and issue timely refunds. Front and center, some 800,000 federal employees nationally, including an estimated 70,000 at IRS, have been furloughed without pay as a result of this needless shutdown."

The Trump administration this week said tax refunds will be issued even if the government is shut down.