Attempt to Get Trump’s Tax Returns May Have Alerted IRS to Data Tool’s Vulnerability

Do the security concerns that caused the Internal Revenue Service to shut down an online tool that’s key to applying for student aid stem from a private investigator’s attempt to use the tool to get President Trump’s tax records?

That question is raised in an article by the newsmagazine Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, which reports that it has obtained court records that identify a Louisiana-based private investigator who is accused of using the data-retrieval tool for that purpose in September of last year.

Education Department and IRS officials cited security concerns when they announced in March that the IRS was shutting down the tool temporarily. The officials described the move as “a precautionary step following concerns that information from the tool could potentially be misused by identity thieves.”

In testimony before a U.S. Senate panel in April, the IRS commissioner said that the personal data of as many as 100,000 taxpayers could have been compromised by a security breach of the tool. The commissioner said IRS officials had learned of the system’s vulnerabilities in the fall and were concerned that identity thieves would attempt to use it to steal information and fraudulently collect tax refunds.

Diverse: Issues in Higher Education says the records it obtained indicate that FBI agents interviewed the Louisiana investigator in October, several weeks after he allegedly tried to obtain tax information for Mr. Trump, then a presidential candidate, on September 13.

Before the tool was taken down, both student-loan applicants and borrowers who are in income-driven repayment plans could use it to import data from tax returns, which greatly simplifies the process of filling out the forms they submit. An Education Department official told lawmakers in early May that the tool would be back online for borrowers in income-driven repayment plans by the end of the month, but would not be available to people filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the Fafsa, until October.

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