Tag Archives: tax payer information

Tax Season 2016 – Tax Prep Apps of the Week

The Internet rapidly automated so many things including filing your taxes.  Because of technology and software advances as many as 80 percent of Americans can and do prepare their own taxes using various software and web services.  

Many African-Americans access the web using smartphones. Because of this we need to examine some very good apps that can help you if decide to do your own taxes using your smartphone. These apps are designed to allow you to record and prepare financial records and even file taxes directly from your smartphone. These are the Apps of the Week.

 

IRS2GoIRS2Go – This is the official app of the Internal Revenue Service. Although you cannot actually file your taxes using this app you can check the status of your tax refund, make tax payments, and get updates from the IRS. IRS2Go also offers important numbers and times to call and ask questions. You can also sign up for tax hints through the app. For those of you who filed e-taxes you can check on their status with the app within 72 hours.

IRS2Go is free and available for Apple and Android.

 

 

 

 

myblock-mobile-app-dMy BlockUnlike IRS2Go the H&R My Block app is a bit more rich in features. My Block, one of two apps offered by the tax prep giant, allows the user to check their refund status. My Block also offers a robust help section that defines terms and answer basic tax questions. It also offers a checklist that helps the user create a tax filing to-do list along with tools that allow you to estimate the size of your refund. If you have additional questions My Block allows you to set up an appointment at a local H&R Block office.  You can also use My Block to upload documents so your tax pro will have them available during your appointment.

My Block is free and available for Apple and Android.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tax Prtaxprep-mobile-app-deparation – H&R Block’s Tax Preparation is different from its sister app because it actually allows the user to prepare and file tax returns.  Tax Preparation does a neat trick by collecting and importing information directly from a photo of your W-2. The user can select from various versions from free, basic, deluxe to premium editions. The app shows the user what causes their refund to fluctuate, offers cross-platform syncing and status updates on your return. The app also offers advice and free, in-person audit support. 

Tax Preparation is free ad available for Apple and Android.

 

 

 

 

 

 

expensify-logoExpensify – Expensify wasn’t exactly made for preparing taxes. But if you own a business or are self-employed this app can help you get the most from your deductions. Using the app allows the self employed business person or any business owner to capture receipts, track billing hours and travel miles. Expensify allows the user to record any expenses or operating costs. It also automatically imports credit card transactions and scan receipts for expense reports that can later be converted to IRS-approved e-Receipts minimizing paper usage and hopefully any tax-related discrepancies.

Expensify is free and available for Apple and Android.

 

 

Ask a cpaAsk A CPA – Ask A CPA is an app with a host of basic tips encompassing the latest changes in tax law. These tips cover a variety of different categories, from alimony and dividends to adoption expenses and charitable deductions. Ask A CPA also gives the user the opportunity to ask specific questions it hasn’t already covered within the app’s archives. However there have been complaints about the text space available for questions. The coolest feature is that local CPAs in your area answer these questions. Ask A CPA is a powerful resource for owners of small businesses who need answers to common tax questions but also for individual taxpayers.

Ask A CPA is free and available for Apple and Android.

 

Turbo taxTurboTax Preparation – TurboTax Preparation works very similar to its online counterpart. The app offers a wealth of tax-related information and tools for preparing and e-filing your taxes. Like H&R Block’s Tax Preparation  app the TurboTax app can also pull information from a photo of your W-2. It provides step-by-step instructions while seeking out as many as 350 tax deductions and credits intended to maximize your refund.  The app double checks your return and the information you provided as you go.  Once loaded on your different devices the app syncs so you can switch between your iPhone, iPad or computer. 
 

Turbo Tax Preparation is free and available for Apple and Android.

 

 

 

 

 

Tax ActExTaxACT Express –  TaxAct Express is another full service app for filing taxes. It can help with most common tax situations and, like other apps, automatically imports information from a photo of your W-2. The app will track the status of your IRS refund and notify you when it’s been processed. The app also offer free e-filing of state and federal taxes for free. 

Tax ACT Express is free and available for Apple and Android

 

 

 

 

BNABNA Quick Tax Reference – BNA Quick Tax Reference provides some valuable reference material but is not exactly easy to use but then again it is meant for the more financially savvy user.  The user can find tables showing mileage rates, corporate tax rate schedules, individual tax rate schedules, standard deductions, retirement plan limits, and more. If you looking to file back taxes the tables can take you back to 2012. 

BNA Quick Tax Reference is free and available for Apple and Android.

 

 

turbotax-taxcasterTaxCaster – This app is also offered by Intuit makers of the TurboTax products.  TaxCaster is designed for filers with relatively simple taxes and a single job, much like the 1040EZ and 1040A tax forms and you don’t have to sign up to use it. The user simply enter their wages, marital status, earnings, and deductions.  TaxCaster can quickly give you a good idea of what kind of refund you might receive. This fairly simple app won’t  prepare your taxes, but it can give you a good idea what to expect when you do.

TaxCaster is free and available for Apple and Android.

 

 

Breach Brief – IRS Data Breach, Ashley Madison Update

August 24, 2015 

IRS Breach

IRS_LogoThe Internal Revenue Service (IRS) widened the scope of the breach first announced in May. The government agency is saying that as many as 390,000 taxpayers are now at risk. The hack was centered around the IRS’ Get Transcript system.

The IRS suspended the Get Transcript online service in May. The service was intended to simplify how taxpayers retrieve their tax records, review their tax account transactions, get line-by-line tax return information or wage and income reported to the IRS for a specific tax year.  Hackers circumvented the Get Transcript’s authentication safeguards and are believed to have gained access to taxpayer information, including Social Security numbers.

According to an August 17th statement the IRS stepped up its investigation of the breach. A deeper review of the compromised system included analyzing over 23 million system uses, including the 2015 filing season. Investigators were looking for suspicious activities and identified “more questionable attempts” to obtain taxpayer records through the Web application.

No details were provided on how the agency uncovered the additional taxpayer account breaches. But it is believed that the hackers were very skillful and probably covered their tracks to make it more made it difficult for the tax agency to quickly assess the extent of the breach.

Update-Ashley Madison Breach

ashley-madison-hed-2014Hackers who stole profile and customer data from Ashley Madison have released the data online. According to multiple reports a 10GB file of customer’s personal data including email addresses, member profiles and transaction data is now available online. Some reports say as many as 32 million customer’s information was released including one million UK civil servants, U.S. officials, members of the U.S. armed forces and top executives at European and North American corporations. There already reports of blackmail and divorce petitions because of the data release.

Impact Team, the hacker group claiming credit for the data theft,  released the data after Avid Life Media, which owns Ashley Madison and Established Men failed to meet demands that they permanently shut the sites down down. Cougar Life, another Avid Life Media site, was not mentioned and seems to be unaffected.

Additional information;

The Blackmail of Ashley Customer Has Already Begun

People are already starting divorce proceedings because of the Ashley Madison leak.

After the devastating hack, these lawsuits are threatening to wipe Ashley Madison out altogether.

A chart made from the leaked Ashley Madison data reveals which states in the US like to cheat the most.

The Pentagon Is Investigating the Ashley Madison Leak.

How to check if an account was exposed in the Ashley Madison hack

August 4, 2015

United Airlines

united_continental_logo_detAccording to Bloomberg Business United Airlines has reported that it’s customer flight records have been lost to a data breach.

The breach was detected in May or June of this year and involved flight manifests. Chinese hackers are suspected. These same Chinese hackers are suspected of stealing more than twenty million OPM records. Experts believe that Chinese intelligence is constructing a massive database.

United Airlines is one of the government’s largest contractors. It is believed that the stolen data contains vast amounts of information on military and government officials and federal employee’s travel.

Experts have also questioned a possible connection between the hack and the computer glitch that caused flight delays on July 8th. Evidence from the investigation reveal that hackers may have been inside United’s computers for months.

A spokesman for United Airlines declined to confirm that a breach occurred and insisted that customer’s private data is safe.

One of the major concerns is that hackers, tinkering with sensitive systems, could accidently or deliberately, cause massive flight delays or even cripple a major airline causing nationwide and potentially global aviation gridlock. Another concern is backdoors left inside computer networks that allow hackers back in at will.

United spokesman Luke Punzenberger said of customer information that United “would abide by notification requirements if the situation warranted.”

Medical Informatics Engineering

mielogolargeA data breach at Medical Informatics Engineering has compromised the data of over 3.9 million people nationwide. According MIE the information loss includes names, phone numbers, mailing addresses, user names, hashed passwords, security questions and answers, email addresses, birthdates, Social Security numbers, lab results, health insurance policy information, diagnoses, disability codes, doctors’ names, medical conditions, and spouses’ and childrens’ names and birthdates.

MIE creates electronic medical records software for health care providers and the result of the breach could impact as many as 11 healthcare providers including local, national and the federal government.

According to the company the hackers had access to the MIE servers for three weeks and have stolen the information to sell on the black market. Experts suspect the theft was likely and inside job.

MIE has reported the breach to the FBI Cyber squad and said the investigation into the security breach is ongoing. MIE  is offering free credit monitoring and identity theft protection. The company has established a toll free hotline available Monday-Friday 9:00AM-9:00PM EST at (866) 328-1987.

 July 28, 2015

Experian

ExperianLogo

Experian Credit Reporting Services is the target of a class action lawsuit filed in California. The amount is to be determined. According to the suit Experian was negligent and violated consumer protection laws because it failed to realize that for nearly a year a customer of it’s data brokerage subsidiary, Court Ventures, was actually a criminal gang specializing in selling consumer data to identity thieves. Experian purchased Court Vnetures in 2012.

The leader of the identity theft ring was sentenced to 13 years in prison last week in New Hampshire. Hieu Minh Ngo accessed as many as 200 million consumer records by posing as a private investigator based in the United States.

According to the government Ngo collected nearly $2 million from his scheme. The IRS has confirmed that 13,673 U.S. citizens had their personal information stolen and sold on Ngo’s websites Superget.info and Findget.me. The stolen identities were used to file over $65 million dollars in fraudulent tax returns.

Plaintiffs in the case have asked the court to compel Experian to notify all consumers affected by the breach, provide free credit monitoring services, turn over all profits made as a result of the Ngo relationship and to establish a fund to reimburse victims for the time and expenses of fighting fraud and correcting identity theft caused by customers of Ngo’s ID theft service.

U.S Census Bureau

2000px-Census_Bureau_seal.svgThe U.S. Census Bureau reported a data breach early last week. In a written statement released on Friday Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson said a database belonging to the Federal Audit Clearinghouse had been attacked. The FAC collects audit reports from the government agencies and other organizations spending federal money. 

According to Thompson the information included the names of people who submitted information, addresses, phone numbers, user names and other data. According the Bureau no household or business data was lost.

In the statement Thompson wrote that the intruders accessed the database through a configuration setting on an external IT system. That system is separate from the Census Bureau internal systems that stores census data.

In the statement Thompson went to say, “Over the last three days, we have seen no indication that there was any access to internal systems.”

The attack was apparently in protest of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Both are pending trade agreements that have been widely criticized. A group calling itself Anonymous Operations claimed credit for the breach and posted a link on Twitter to four of the stolen files.

July 20, 2015

Ashley Madison

ashley-madison-hed-2014A hacking group calling itself the Impact Team has hacked into the sex hookup website AshleyMadison.com.

According to Krebsonsecurity.com massive caches of customer and company data have been stolen and posted online. The group claims to have totally penetrated the company’s networks taking control of the company’s customer database of 37 millon users, financial records and other proprietary information. As a website dedicated to cheating spouses the damage could go well beyond lost data.

Avid Life Media, which in addition to Ashley Madison also owns hookup sites CougarLife.com and EstablishedMen.com, was attacked in retaliation for lying to customers. According to the Impact Team hackers ALM advertised to customers  a service allowing members to completely erase their profile information for a $19 fee. According to the hackers the company is not fully deleting user’s information including personally identifiable information, user’s purchase details and real name and address.

The hackers have demanded that Ashley Madison and Established Men websites be taken down immediately and permanently or more information will be released online.  The hackers are threatening to release customer records, including profiles with their secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.

Avid Life Media CEO Noel Biderman believes the attack maybe the work of one or more persons, possibly an employee or contractor, who had legitimate access to the company’s network.

July 18, 2015

CVSPhoto.com, Costocophotocenter.com, RiteAid Photo, Sams Club, Walgreens & Tesco

CVS PhotoPNI Digital Media  is a third party vendor that handles transactions for these retailers according to KrebsOn Security.com PNI has suffered a data breach of unknown size. But it is known that customer payment information has been compromised.

Neither PNI nor any of the retailers connected with the breach have said much only saying that more information will be released as it becomes available. CVSPhoto.com took down its photo site and posted an announcement indicating an investigation is under way and that other CVS sites such as it’s pharmacy were unaffected by the breach. CVS has asked customers who used the photo service to check and monitor their card statements for suspicious activity or transactions. If anything looks strange they are to contact their bank or card company immediately to report it.

Costcophotocenter.com and RiteAid photo also took their sites down.

UCLA Health

UCLA Health has confirmed health information for as many as 4 million individuals has been exposed as a result of a data breach that may have began last September. The FBI is investigating and UCLA has hired a private forensics experts to beef up the security on it’s servers.

According to a UCLA Health statement released on Friday “criminal hackers” hacked into parts of the organization’s computer network containing personal and medical information.

UCLA Health began investigating suspicious activity on its networks in October of 2014. At the time they  did not believe the attackers gained access to areas of the network containing personal and medical information.

“As part of that ongoing investigation, on May 5, 2015, UCLA Health determined that the attackers had accessed parts of the network that contain personal information such as names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, medical record numbers, Medicare or health plan ID numbers and some medical information. Based on the continuing investigation, it appears that the attackers may have had access to these parts of the network as early as September 2014. We continue to investigate this matter.”

Office of Personnel Management

Even though OPM suffered a data breach and the loss of information of 24 million Americans the government still has not notified those invividuals. Its been two months.

Officials from multiple agencies familiar with the investigation say that OPM is working with other agencies to set up a system to inform the victims.

An OPM official, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that because of the complicated nature of the data and movement of contract and federal employees it would be weeks before a mechanism was in place.

According to the official the government is attempting to establish a central notification system rather than rely on separate agencies to make notifications. An outside contractor  is being considered for the task but OPM has not yet asked for bids for the job.

July 16, 2015

OPM Data Breach

An interagenOPM Sealcy task force investigating April’s OPM hacking has determined with “high confidence” that as many as 21.5 million people had their personal information stolen. This includes social security numbers .

The Office of Personnel Management updated its website last Thursday with the startling new information.

According to the OPM 4.2 million former federal employees’ personnel data was stolen. While investigating that theft investigators found a much larger data theft. OPM has not yet notified the 19.7 million additional individuals affected. Those are the people who requested a background check normally for employment purposes or acces to classified information. An additional 1.8 were people were not job appicants but were either married to or co-habiting with an applicant.

In addition to personal information the hackers stole as many as one million fingerprint records.

Applicants who applied for employment had their user names and passwords for investigation forms stolen. It is also highly possible that information such as mental health history and financial history many have also been stolen. Applicants that were interviewed as part of their background investigations often reveal this sensitive information when applying for security clearences.

OPM attempted to take some of the sting from the bad news by saying “there is no evidence that health, financial, payroll, and retirement records of federal personnel or those who have applied for a federal job were impacted by this incident (for example, annuity rolls, retirement records, USAjobs, Employee Express).” The agency assures the public that it’s working to create safeguards to prevent such incidents in the future.

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta resigned her position last week after whitering criticism over the data breach.

Army National Guard Data Breach

Seal_of_the_United_States_Army_National_Guard.svgCurrent and former members of the Army National Guard members dating back to 2004 had personal information including social security numbers, birthdates and home addresses stolen. 

National Guard Spokesman Major Earl Brown, said “The National Guard Bureau takes the control of personal information very seriously,” said Brown. “After investigating the circumstances of these actions, and the information that was transferred, the Guard has determined, out of an abundance of caution, to inform current and past Guard personnel that their Personally Identifiable Information (PII) was among the files that were transferred.”

“The issue was identified and promptly reported, and we do not believe the data will be used unlawfully,” Brown said. “This was not a hacking incident, in which the intent was to use data for financial gain. Nonetheless, the Guard believes that individuals potentially affected need to know about the breach and what actions they can take to protect themselves from potential identity theft.”

If you are a member of the Nationa guard and need more information please  go to http://www.nationalguard.mil/Features/IdentityTheft.aspx or call  toll-free 877-276-4729 8AM to 4PM EST, Monday through Friday. You can also email any questions you have to dod.data.breach.questions@mail.mil