In the shadow of a recent IRS payment application outage that forced the agency to delay the 2017 tax season filing deadline by a day, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to improve cybersecurity, taxpayer identity protection and the modernization of agency IT systems.

The bill, titled the 21st Century IRS Act, passed the House on a nearly unanimous vote of 414 to three April 18, 2018, passing the legislation on to the Senate for markup and approval.

Under the bill, the IRS would be required to undertake four actions to improve cybersecurity and identity protection for taxpayers:

  1. Work with the public and private sectors to protect taxpayers from identity theft refund fraud.
  2. Make recommendations through the Electronic Tax Administration Advisory Committee to prevent identity theft and refund fraud.
  3. Participate in an information sharing and analysis center for identity theft tax refund fraud.
  4. Prohibit the disclosure of returns or return information to contractors or other agents for agencies that do not comply with confidentiality safeguards.

The bill also codifies the IRS chief information officer role, which would be appointed by the administrator of the IRS and be responsible for the development, implementation and maintenance of IT at the agency.

“It provides much needed accountability by setting forth clear guidelines processes and responsibilities for the IRS officials who are responsible for maintaining and modernizing the IRS IT,” said bill author Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Mich., in a speech on the House floor.

Bishop added that the numerous cases of identity theft and issues with malfunctioning IRS systems occurring among his constituents prompted him to introduce the bill.

“We live in a world of constantly emerging threats and sophisticated criminals who are probing to gain access to taxpayer information, and the 21st Century IRS Act is an important step to overhaul and modernize IRS IT infrastructure, giving Americans more peace of mind,” said Bishop.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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