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Letter: Data worries over IRS collections

The exterior of the Internal Revenue Service building

The exterior of the Internal Revenue Service building in Washington on March 22, 2013. Photo Credit: AP

Among the millions of delinquent tax debts owed to the Internal Revenue Service, there obviously are some recalcitrant cases where the engagement of a private debt collector would be appropriate ["Bill to privatize IRS collections," News, May 18]. However, legislation proposed by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) that would require the IRS to use private collectors for certain debts goes too far.

Dysfunctional taxation systems have led to violent upheavals in many lands and eras, including ancient Egypt, Colonial America and India under British rule. The philosopher Maimonides wrote of the evils of tax collectors who were not directly answerable to the sovereign. As unpopular and abusive as a government's own taxation personnel may be, private tax collectors invariably are all the more so. There is no limit to the collateral damage this misdirected system might wreak.

We have already seen data security breaches by IRS employees. Entrusting personal information of taxpayers to employees of the private collectors would only attenuate the IRS's less-than-perfect control over what should be secure data. This is especially dangerous now that Obamacare has effectively made personal health care information a parameter of the taxation system's databases.

Kenneth H. Ryesky, East Northport

Editor's note: The writer teaches business law and taxation at Queens College and formerly served as a lawyer for the IRS.