It seems there was good reason for downplaying May’s security breach in the IRS “Get Transcript” application. It really was quite a bit worse than they had described it back in May. The breach was first described as unauthorized access into 100,000 tax accounts, and that number has recently been amended to 334,000. We were also told that international thieves started tampering with the site in February 2015, but now the IRS says it was actually November 2014.
The IRS can’t get anything right. When are they going to learn to be more cautious and conservative in their official statements? I have to believe that IRS press releases are reviewed by their tax attorneys, or somebody with good judgment and a strong command of the English language. How difficult would it have been to state that the preliminary figures suggest there were 100,000 but this number could increase (or even is likely to increase) pending further investigation. I, for one, would not consider that to be wishy washy in any way. It may be frustrating to some; we want to know all the facts the moment the story breaks. But it is more honest and credible to state only as much as can be confirmed and it is rarely a bad thing to admit when things are not yet known. Maybe that’s the IRS’ biggest problem. As an agency, they have suffered so much by way of public scorn, and their competence has been called into question so many times that they feel the pressure to have all the answers at times when having all the answers would be impossible.
Sometimes the problem with the IRS has less to do with the way they actually handle issues and more to do with the way they inform the public.