Tax Prep Firms Share Taxpayer Data with Meta and Google

Tax Prep Firms Share Taxpayer Data with Meta and Google

Tax Prep Firms Share Taxpayer Data with Meta and Google: Taxpayers who used tax preparation firms like TaxAct, H&R Block, or TaxSlayer to file their tax returns may have had their personal data shared with tech giants like Meta and Google, according to a Congressional report released on Wednesday. The probe, led by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, found that these tax prep companies potentially violated privacy laws by “recklessly” sharing sensitive personal and financial data of tens of millions of taxpayers with Meta, the parent company of Facebook. The privacy breach was initially reported by the nonprofit journalism outlet The Markup.

The report revealed that the companies utilized Meta Pixel, a piece of code used for tracking website visitors, for several years. Additionally, all three firms shared data with Google through Google Analytics for an even longer duration. However, the report primarily focuses on Meta as it appears that Google did not utilize the information for its own commercial purposes as overtly as Meta did.

The investigation highlights a troubling pattern of data sharing by tax prep companies, particularly on websites where tax return information is entered. The report emphasizes the recklessness of using pixels, considering the sensitivity of the data involved in online tax preparation.

According to The Markup’s previous report, information shared through Meta Pixel included names, email addresses, income details, filing status, refund amounts, and college scholarship amounts for dependents. The congressional report stated that every taxpayer who used these websites to file their taxes could have had at least some of their data shared. Moreover, taxpayers who utilized TaxAct’s Free File Service, in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), also had their information shared with the tech companies.

Tax Prep Firms Share Taxpayer Data with Meta and Google

The report further reveals that TaxAct allowed Meta to collect even more data than previously reported. This included details such as approximate federal tax owed, tracked buttons clicked, and names of text-entry forms that could indicate eligibility for specific deductions.

In response to The Markup’s report, all three companies claimed to have removed or disabled the Meta Pixel from their websites. H&R Block, for instance, emphasized its commitment to protecting clients’ privacy and stated that they have taken steps to prevent information sharing via pixels. TaxAct asserted that they have always complied with privacy laws and are dedicated to engaging with stakeholders to address concerns and advance public policy. TaxSlayer, however, has not yet responded to the request for comment.

This article sheds light on the concerning practice of data sharing by tax prep firms and raises questions about the protection of taxpayers’ privacy. The focus on Meta’s usage of the shared information is particularly emphasized, given the potential commercial purposes it may have served. Moving forward, it is crucial for these companies to prioritize privacy protection and ensure compliance with privacy laws to safeguard taxpayers’ sensitive information.

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