No drop in SC electronic tax returns after hacking

jwilkinson@thestate.comApril 4, 2013 

  • S.C. tax office in Columbia moved

    The S.C. Department of Revenue wants to remind taxpayers that its Columbia office has moved from the S.C. State Museum in downtown to 300-A Outlet Pointe Boulevard near Bush River Road and I-20.

    Additional taxpayer assistance offices are located in Charleston, Florence, Greenville, Myrtle Beach and Rock Hill and are open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. To find an office: (803) 898-5000 or www.sctax.org.

— Despite last year’s hacking at the state Department of Revenue, the agency has not seen a significant falloff in the number of South Carolinians filing their taxes online.

With 10 days left until the April 15 filing deadline, South Carolina has processed more than 1.5 million individual state income tax returns with 83 percent filed electronically. Historically, 80 to 85 percent of taxpayers file electronically, agency spokeswoman Samantha Cheek said.

Hackers stole information from electronically filed tax returns for 3.8 million consumers with 1.9 million dependents along with nearly 700,000 businesses in September. The stolen tax records dated back to 1998.

Data from paper returns were not stolen, leading to speculation that more S.C. taxpayers would shy away from electronic returns even though hackers stole records resting in databases. No information was taken while information was in transmission. The agency was prepared to hire more workers to process an expected rise in paper returns.

Cheek said the lack of a drop off in electronic filings indicates that the public feels the state has taken the steps necessary to prevent a repeat of what experts have called the nation’s largest-ever hacking of a state agency.

“We want to uphold the taxpayers trust ... by putting the necessary safeguards in place,” she said.

Earlier this week, Gov. Nikki Haley’s office reported that nearly 1.5 million South Carolinians signed up for a year of free credit monitoring.

Instead, the state agreed to pay Experian $12 million in taxpayer money to provide the credit monitoring. Experian’s credit-monitoring programs normally retail at $159 for individuals and $239 for families annually, a company spokesman said.

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