When tax preparers renew their PTIN on the W-12 , they will notice it now states “Data Security Responsibilities: “As a paid tax return preparer, I am aware of my legal obligation to have a data security plan and to provide data and system security protections for all taxpayer information. Check the box to confirm you are aware of this responsibility.”
The IRS requires a written information security plan for accountants to protect clients’ data. Having a written information security plan is required because once implemented properly it helps you take the right steps to practice good security.
“There’s no way around it for anyone running a tax business. Having a written security plan is a sound business practice – and it’s required by law,” said Jared Ballew of Drake Software, co-lead for the Summit tax professional team and incoming chair of the Electronic Tax Administration Advisory Committee (ETAAC).” -irs.gov
A Written Information Security Plan is the formal document in which an accounting firm describes the technical, physical, and administrative safeguards which ensure information privacy.
A WISP requires an accounting firm to be well prepared for any cyber threat which is posed to the sensitive data held in a firm’s possession – physically or electronically. The goal of the IRS requiring this document is to keep individual firms accountable for the security of breaches in customer data. Those who choose to neglect these stringent guidelines may incur a heavy fine from the federal government.
Certified Public Accounting firms are some of the most vulnerable to security breaches since they contain a customers’ sensitive data. The financial data of different businesses and their owners can offer a huge payday for those intent to exploit your system. Recognizing this ever-growing problem, the different levels of government put these legal responsibilities on these firms to encourage compliance.
The fifth Title of the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, also known as the Gramm Leach Bliley Act, states that all financial institutions working under the Federal Trade Commission are required to take necessary steps to ensure the protection of customers’ sensitive data as stated in the Safeguard Rule. The Federal Trade Commission has implemented this rule through different regulatory sectors. Violation of this rule results in a heavy penalty, the details of which are: