The big tax news this week is that a group has announced that they have hacked from PricewaterhouseCopper’s Nashville office copies of Mitt Romney’s tax returns and are holding them for ransom. The asking price is $1million and the files will go to the first to pay. The deadline is September 26th and if no payment has been received by then, the files will be made public.
According to a post on the website Pastebin, the thieves say they gained access to the 3rd floor of the building on August 25th by using someone working there. They then took over an empty office on the 2nd floor and spent the night making copies of all available 1040 returns for Gov. Romney. Flash drives contain the returns and a cover letter with a scanned copy of Romney’s signature was sent to PWC and the local Democratic and Republican offices. The Secret Service is investigating the incident. Both the Democratic and Republican offices have turned over the flash drives and letters they received without accessing the materials. PWC is investigating internally and say that they haven’t found any evidence of a security breach.
There is a good chance that this is an extortion scam. I hope so. While I think the returns should be released by the Governor, I think he has the same right to privacy as an ordinary citizen and it should be his decision.
Tax office security is also an issue that the IRS takes seriously. I wrote last year about how the IRS is suggesting that each tax office create a security plan to protect client information. Pub 4557 contains a checklist that tax pros can use to evaluate their office and create a plan. Taxpayers should also check with their tax pro about how their personal info is safeguarded.
I really hope that this is a scam and that Gov. Romney’s tax returns never left PWC. But maybe it will draw some attention to tax return security.