Nina Olson, Executive Director of the Center for Taxpayer Rights, has made available for download her article “The Facebook Pixel and Unauthorized Use and Disclosure of Tax Return and Tax Return”, published on the Procedurally Taxing blog. The abstract is as follows:
Last week The Markup, an online investigative journalism site, published a report about the presence of a Facebook (or Meta) pixel on various tax software websites that discloses taxpayer identity and financial information, gathered in the course of preparing and filing tax returns online, to Facebook. The data includes “not only information like names and email addresses but often even more detailed information, including data on users’ income, filing status, refund amounts, and dependents’ college scholarship amounts.” For example, “[o]nce a tax return was filled out on taxact.com, information including an individual’s adjusted gross income, federal refund amount, and number of dependents was sent to Meta via the Meta Pixel.” According to The Markup, the H&R Block program sent data regarding health savings account and dependent college tuition grants and expenses.
I note at the outset that the implications of this investigative report are far-reaching. Not only do tens of millions of US taxpayers use online tax preparation software each year to file their returns, but the IRS itself directs taxpayers, via Free File, to online software products implicated in the investigation. Further, the IRS provides Tax Slayer, one of the software packages embedding the pixel, to Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites. These latter two tax preparation services – Free File and VITA – are directed toward low income, elderly, and disabled taxpayers.
Posted by Marin Larkin, Associate Editor, Wealth Strategies Journal.