Internal Revenue Bulletin:  2009-28 

July 13, 2009 

Announcement 2009-56

Proposed Security, Privacy, and Business Standards for Authorized IRS e-file Providers participating in Online Filing of individual income tax returns


The IRS has developed six (6) new security, privacy, and business standards to better serve taxpayers and protect their information collected, processed and stored by Authorized IRS e-file Providers (Providers) participating in Online Filing of individual income tax returns.

These new standards are intended to supplement the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the implementing rules and regulations promulgated by the Federal Trade Commission. These standards have previously been reviewed by our outside technical consultants, vetted internally, presented at two consecutive IRS Software Developers conferences, and posted on irs.gov for comments.

The security and privacy objectives of these standards are: setting minimum encryption standards for transmission of taxpayer information over the internet and authentication of Web site owners/operators beyond that offered by standard version SSL certificates; periodic external vulnerability scan of the taxpayer data environment; protection against bulk-filing of fraudulent tax returns; and the ability to timely isolate and investigate potentially compromised taxpayer information. These standards also address certain customer service objectives such as instant access to Web site owner/operator’s contact information, and e-file Providers commitment to maintaining physical, electronic, and procedural safeguards that comply with applicable law and federal standards.

1. Extended Validation SSL Certificate

This standard applies to Authorized IRS e-file Providers participating in Online Filing of individual income tax returns that collect taxpayer information via the Internet. These Providers shall possess a valid and current Extended Validation Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate using SSL 3.0 / TLS 1.0 or later, and minimum 1024-bit RSA / 128-bit AES.

2. External Vulnerability Scan

This standard applies to Authorized IRS e-file Providers participating in Online Filing of individual income tax returns that collect, transmit, process, or store taxpayer information. These Providers shall contract with an independent third-party vendor to run weekly external network vulnerability scans of all their “system components” in accordance with the applicable requirements of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCIDSS). All scans shall be performed by a scanning vendor certified by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council and listed on their current list of Approved Scanning Vendors (ASV). In addition, Providers whose systems are hosted shall ensure that their host complies with all applicable requirements of the PCIDSS.

For the purposes of this standard, “system components” is defined as any network component, server, or application that is included in or connected to the taxpayer data environment. The taxpayer data environment is that part of the network that possesses taxpayer data or sensitive authentication data.

If scan reports reveal vulnerabilities, action shall be taken to address the vulnerabilities in line with the scan report’s recommendations. Retain weekly scan reports for at least one year. The ASV and the host (if present) shall be located in the United States.

3. Information Privacy and Safeguard Policies

This standard applies to Authorized IRS e-file Providers participating in Online Filing of individual income tax returns that own or operate a Web site through which taxpayer information is collected, transmitted, processed or stored. These Providers shall have written information privacy and safeguard policy consistent with the applicable government and industry guidelines. In addition, Providers’ shall acquire, maintain, and display a license/accreditation seal from a consumer protection and privacy seal vendor acceptable to the IRS. The list of acceptable vendors will be made available on www.irs.gov.

4. Protection Against Bulk Filing of Fraudulent Income Tax Returns

This standard applies to Authorized IRS e-file Providers participating in Online Filing of individual income tax returns that own or operate a Web site through which taxpayer information is collected, transmitted, processed or stored. These Providers shall implement effective state-of-the-art technologies to protect their Web site against bulk filing of fraudulent income tax returns. Taxpayer information shall not be collected, transmitted, processed or stored otherwise.

5. Public Domain Name Registration

This standard applies to Authorized IRS e-file Providers participating in Online Filing of individual income tax returns that own or operate a Web site through which taxpayer information is collected, transmitted, processed or stored. These Providers shall have their Web site’s domain name registered with a domain name registrar that is located in the United States and accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The domain name shall be locked and not be private.

6. Reporting of Security Incidents

This standard applies to Authorized IRS e-file Providers participating in Online Filing of individual income tax returns that collect, transmit, process, or store taxpayer information. These Providers shall report security incidents to the IRS as soon as possible but not later than the next business day after confirmation of the incident. For the purposes of this standard, an event that can result in an unauthorized disclosure, misuse, modification, or destruction of taxpayer information shall be considered a reportable security incident. Detail instructions for submitting incident reports will be made available on www.irs.gov

In addition, if the Provider’s Web site is the proximate cause of the incident, the Provider shall cease collecting taxpayer information via their Web site immediately upon detection of the incident and until the underlying causes of the incident are successfully resolved.

Comments may be submitted electronically to new.efile.requirements@irs.gov on or before September 15, 2009. Please include “Announcement 2009-56” in the subject line of any electronic communications.


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