There have been allegations that H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer shared millions of taxpayers’ personal and financial information with the digital giants Google and Meta without the taxpayers’ permission.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has led a seven-month investigation into whether these corporations utilized the embedded monitoring technology on their websites to disclose this information. The inquiry uncovered instances when Meta inappropriately utilized customer data for advertising purposes.
Companies were accused in the study of disclosing personal information about their customers, including their identities, refund amounts, and the names of their dependents. In addition, they reportedly disclosed customers’ responses to tax form questions regarding the tax advantages they claimed and whether or not they participated in any government programs by showing which buttons and text fields were selected.
On July 11th, a report claimed that online tax software employed tracking pixels to gather and distribute the titles of pages users saw. According to reports, a Senator Warren staffer said this data could disclose whose tax forms constituents have seen. Meta told investigators it fed the taxpayer information it obtained into its AI for training and ad targeting.
Legislators have called tax preparation services “untrustworthy and incompetent,” but it does not appear that taxpayer information is shared with third parties in a way that may lead to identity theft or other criminal activities. A spokeswoman for Meta stated that the firm explicitly forbids using its products to transfer sensitive information and that its infrastructure is built to eliminate any potentially sensitive data it can identify.
Everyone who filed their taxes using one of their websites ran the danger of having at least part of their information leaked. Lawmakers demanded that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) ‘thoroughly examine’ the problem and bring criminal charges against any corporation or persons responsible for the violations.
Without the taxpayer’s express written consent, federal law prohibits releasing information in a tax return. H&R Block claims to “very seriously” protect its customers’ personal information and has implemented measures to stop data from being leaked through image files.