IRS Getting Geekier

As if the IRS weren’t geeky enough already, according to a US News Money story, they are really stepping up their game with regard to tracking taxpayers’ digital activities.  I sometimes lovingly refer to IRS employees as bean counters, and I similarly use the term geek here with all due respect.

The IRS has new advanced digital tracking technology similar to “cookies,” — but more powerful than cookies because the IRS also has access to social security numbers and other confidential information unavailable to the private sector.  It isn’t clear exactly how the IRS will use this new technology, but it appears they will have access to pretty much anything you do online whether it be posting on Facebook, making a purchase with your credit card, or anything in between.

Understandably so, the IRS isn’t rolling out this technology with much fanfare or noise.  The less the public knows about what triggers an IRS audit or what information is used to identify suspicious activity, the better, as far as the IRS is concerned.  But industry experts and scholars are very concerned about what all this could mean for individual privacy rights.  One thing that is clear is the IRS can’t continue to operate under procedures and safeguards that were designed when everything, including tax returns, was recorded on paper.

So, exactly how much can the IRS find out about you?  The answer to this question is quickly approaching “everything” if at one time it was somewhere in cyberspace.

And finally, some interesting geeky statistics:

  • An entire year of tax returns occupies 15 terabytes (only 1.5% of total IRS storage)
  • Total IRS storage is 1.2 petabytes (one quadrillion bits of information)
  • IRS has expanded its data capacity  by 1,000 percent in the past six years