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Publication Citation

47 Federal Communications Law Journal 409 (1994)


The Internal Revenue Service has launched the Tax System Modernization (TSM) program, a $23 billion plan to modernize its computer and information systems. TSM will be the largest computer upgrade ever undertaken by the federal government. Like any other computer network, TSM will inevitably be threatened by computer viruses, professional eavesdroppers, power outages, natural disasters, and human error. Given the sensitive nature of tax returns, the IRS has the difficult task of modernizing its data collection procedures and telecommunications facilities without risking the privacy of taxpayers and offending the security measures required by the Privacy Act of 1974, Computer Security Act of 1987, and the Internal Revenue Code. This Note questions the extent to which the TSM program will be able to incorporate the privacy and security standards required by Congress. Also, this Note offers several recommendations for identifying particular security and privacy weaknesses that require immediate attention. This Note concludes that the IRS must match the innovations that it uses to improve tax collection with innovations to protect the privacy of taxpayers.