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Security tip for tax pros: Remember to safeguard EFINs

Written on Dec 13, 2021

A terse warning from the IRS: tax professionals are prime targets for criminals who not only want to steal client data, but also your data, such as electronic filing identification numbers.

A thief who breaches the data of just one tax return preparer can get their hands on lots of other data. In fact, they can get personal info on hundreds or even thousands of people.

Protecting EFINs

One way to watch for suspicious activity is for preparers to check the activity on their EFIN. They can review it to see how many federal tax returns have been filed using their number. Tax pros should routinely verify the number of returns submitted using their EFIN. It's especially important for them to do this during the tax filing season. This is done through IRS e-Services.

Good security habits can also protect EFINs. These include the use of strong anti-virus software, strong and unique passwords, two-factor authentication where available. Tax pros should also:

  • Learn to recognize and avoid phishing scams; do not open links or attachments from suspicious emails, most data thefts begin with a phishing email.
  • Secure all devices with security software and let it automatically update.
  • Use strong passwords of eight or more mixed characters; use phrases that are easily remembered, and password protect all wireless devices.
  • Encrypt all sensitive files and emails and use strong password protections.
  • Backup sensitive data to a safe and secure external source not connected fulltime to the network.
  • Wipe clean or destroy old computer hard drives that contain sensitive data.

Setting up an IRS e-services account

Tax pros who don't have an account should visit e-Services on IRS.gov and register for one.

Once they establish and log into their e-Services account, the preparer should follow these five easy steps to verify the number of returns electronically filed with the IRS:

  1. Select their name
  2. In the left banner, select Application
  3. In the left banner, select e-file Application
  4. Select their name again
  5. Select EFIN Status

After this last step, the screen shows the number of returns filed based on return type. Preparers can see the number of returns the IRS received and match that number to their records. The IRS updates this information weekly. Preparers should contact the IRS e-help desk at 866-255-0654 if their records don't match what they see in the system. They should contact the IRS if they see anything else suspicious in their account.