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IRS Cancels Facial Recognition Software for Taxpayer Identification

in News/politics
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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Read the room.

Had the IRS followed that maxim, the agency perhaps would not have introduced facial recognition software for taxpayer identification purposes.

The mechanism was so unpopular that both parties in Congress actually agreed on something: it was a terrible idea.

After being lambasted by both Republicans and Democrats, the IRS last week waved the white flag and announced the identity verification system — which would force Americans to undergo a facial recognition scan to access their historical tax documents — would not be used.

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo) swatted the IRS after the announcement stating that the fact that the idea was even considered was “absolutely appalling.”

“The IRS can’t even protect the data that it does have access to – why in the world would we give them access to our biometric data?” Lummis said.

In announcing the decision to rescind the controversial plan, the IRS Commissioner claimed the agency took “taxpayer privacy and security seriously.”

“Everyone should feel comfortable with how their personal information is secured, and we are quickly pursuing short-term options that do not involve facial recognition,” Charles P. Rettig said.

Earlier in the week, Wyoming’s senior senator John Barrasso joined 14 other Republican senators in sending a letter to the IRS condemning its use of the technology.

“The IRS has unilaterally decided to allow an outside contractor to stand as the gatekeeper between citizens and necessary government services,” the letter read. 

“The decision millions of Americans are forced to make is to pay the toll of giving up their most personal information, biometric data, to an outside contractor or return to the era of a paper-driven bureaucracy where information moves slow, is inaccurate, and some would say is processed in ways incompatible with contemporary life,” it read.

The agency reportedly is developing another process to identify taxpayers that does not include facial recognition.

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Lummis Slams Yellen For IRS Proposal Mandating Every Transaction Over $600 Be Reported

in News/Cynthia Lummis
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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis’ grilling of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen over a controversial Internal Revenue Service measure on Tuesday is getting some big time exposure.

Great Britain’s Daily Mail is leading its newspaper with the exchange along with the headline “Biden’s Bank Stasi”.

Secret police references aside, at issue is a controversial measure which would vastly expand the powers of the IRS mandating that every financial transaction — personal and business — be reported to the tax agency.

A fierce critic of the proposal, Lummis laid into Yellen, telling her she was “horrified” that the secretary supported it.

“I am astounded by what you’re supporting and proposing. I think it’s invasive. I think privacy for individuals is being ignored. And I think that treating the American people like they are subjects of the government is unconscionable,” Lummis said.

Privacy concerns, costs to the private sector and new regulatory burdens that financial institutions would have to bear were Lummis’ main points of contention, with privacy issues being paramount.

The Wyoming Bankers Association agrees. It is just one of many organizations in the state and across the country which are objecting to the proposal. 

“This proposal would turn every American’s local bank, credit union and payment provider into an IRS agent, monitoring and reporting on deposits and withdrawals made in private accounts — at a threshold of as little as $600,” the organization told Cowboy State Daily last week.

Lummis took it a step further stating that financial institutions would have to “hire contractors to rat on their customers”.

Lummis referred to her agricultural roots during the questioning asking Yellen if she “distrusted the American people so much that you need to know when you bought a cow?”

Yellen ignored Lummis’ question about the cow — and most of the rest of her testimony — suggesting that she disagreed with how the senator interpreted the proposal.

Yellen said the purpose was to catch individuals who aren’t paying their taxes, prointing to a projected $7 trillion loss in tax revenues “which are not being paid to the government.”

Interrupting the secretary, Lummis said, “Well, $600 threshold is not usually where you’re going to find the massive amount of tax revenue you think Americans are cheating you out of.”

Yellen agreed but said the provision was needed anyway just to make sure.

If it’s enacted, don’t expect Wyoming people to participate, Lummis said. They’ll pull their money out of traditional financial institutions.

“Wyoming’s people, literally we’ll find alternatives to traditional banks, just to thwart IRS access to their personal information, not because they’re trying to hide anything, but because they’re not willing to share everything,” she said.

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Privacy Advocates, Bankers Say Biden Proposal Would Turn Banks Into IRS Agents

in News/banking
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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A controversial provision contained in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan that would give the Internal Revenue Service much more information about citizens’ personal finances is causing concern in Wyoming and on Capitol Hill.

The provision would require banks to report nearly every customer’s transaction of $600 or more to the IRS. Further, taxes would be increased to fund $78 billion toward enforcing the new measure.

The goal, according to Biden and supporters, is to make sure people pay what they owe in taxes, but Andy Miller, president of Sundance State Bank in Sundance, said he has a problem with how that would be accomplished.

“We are strongly opposed to this legislation,” he told the Sundance Times. “We believe it infringes on personal and business privacy.”

Scott Meier, who represents the Wyoming Bankers Association, voiced the same concern over privacy issues in a column he penned for Cowboy State Daily earlier this week.

He said every bank and credit union would turn into an IRS agent under the provision.

“This surveillance dragnet will capture every single American — from all income levels — with a bank, credit union, brokerage or financial account,” Meier said.

“Not only is this proposal a huge violation of privacy, but it is also an egregious abuse of Americans’ right to due process by inferring that all U.S. taxpayers are guilty of evading taxes until proven otherwise,” he said.

As an example, Meier said if someone were to transfer $15,000 from their savings account to purchase something they had been saving for — like a wedding or a car — their bank would be required to report the activity to the IRS where it could be flagged for an audit.

“Despite the fact that you have done nothing improper or illegal, any ensuing IRS activity would presume you guilty until proven innocent,” he said.

Where the newly-gleaned information would go resulting from this act is one of many concerns for David Pope, the founder of a multi-state accounting firm based in Wyoming.

He said as soon as the personal financial information is turned over to the IRS, it could end up anywhere.

“If there is anything we learned over the last 4 years or so, Congress at the very least feels they have an absolute right to anything the IRS has in its files,” Pope, president of DAPCPA Inc. said. “They can then use that information for political gain.”

He said the agency doesn’t have a good track record in place with the existing information they already acquire. More information would lead to more problems, Pope said.

“The chance of the IRS misinterpreting this information is tremendous, which could create millions of man-hours spent trying to fix problems from the misinterpretations. It is almost as if the administration is setting up a situation where people receive notices that they just pay because they do not have the time or the means to fight the IRS,” he said.

Both U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney have spoken up against the measure. Lummis said it “undermines” the 4th Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure, while Cheney said the provision would “weaponize the Democrats’ radical agenda”.

“The Biden Administration’s proposed intrusive IRS surveillance of bank accounts with $600 or more violates the rights and privacy of American taxpayers,” she said.

On Friday afternoon, Bloomberg reported there may have been some movement on the changing the threshold amount but it was too early in the process to count on it.

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