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Tax information of more than 100,000 US citizens stolen via “Get Transcript” service of IRS

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Washington: A group of hackers stole confidential data on more than 100,000 US taxpayers over the past four months, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, John Koskinen, reported.

At a Tuesday press conference, Koskinen said that the hackers accessed tax returns containing a large amount of personal data via the IRS “Get Transcript” service between February and May.

“Get Transcript” is a way to download several years of tax forms when a taxpayer would like to apply for a mortgage or educational financial aid, for instance.

Of the 200,000 attempts by the cybercriminal group to download individuals’ tax data between February and May, about half were successful, but – although an investigation is under way – US authorities still do not know who could have carried out the hack attack.

The IRS chief said the agency is sure that the hackers were not novices. “We’re dealing with criminals with a lot of money and using expensive equipment and hiring a lot of smart people,” he said.

Koskinen said that the aim of the info-pirates was to use personal data they had already stolen from taxpayers to request fraudulent tax refunds in their names, and about 15,000 such refunds were issued.

The IRS will send letters to the 200,000 people potentially affected by the data theft starting this week to inform them of the problem.

According to the agency, the hackers already had acquired – possibly through the social networks – private information, including names, addresses, social security numbers and certain other personal details, on citizens whose tax data they then attempted to steal.

The IRS has temporarily disabled the “Get Transcript” service. Over the past few months, Americans used it to download 23 million transcripts, the agency said, but – for the moment – those requests will have to be filled by sending out paper copies of past tax returns.

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Increased GST on Smartphone to Affect Industry and Consumers: Experts

GST hike to make mobile phones costly, hit sales

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Increasing the GST on mobile phones from 12 per cent to 18 per cent, industry experts feel it would hit the industry and the consumers hard. Pixabay

With the GST Council, headed by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, increasing the GST on mobile phones from 12 per cent to 18 per cent on Saturday, industry experts feel it would hit the industry and the consumers hard.

Brands are in no position to absorb this impact. “They will, most certainly, decide to pass it on to the consumer, at least in case of high-selling models,” said Navkendar Singh, Research Director, IDC India.

The India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) stressed that the move would stymie consumption.

“The 6 per cent GST increase will be detrimental to the vision of ‘digital India’. Consumption will be stymied and our domestic consumption target of $80 billion (Rs 6 lakh crore) by 2025 will not be achieved. We will fall short by at least Rs 2 lakh crore,” said Pankaj Mohindroo, ICEA Chairman.

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It also said the GST hike on mobile phone might adversely affect localisation of manufacturing as well as popularisation of the country’s digital payments objectives. Pixabay

In a letter to the Finance Minister on March 12, the ICEA had said the mobile handsets sector was in deep stress because of the supply chain disruption due to coronavirus outbreak. It was the most inappropriate time to consider GST hike on mobile phones, the industry body said. It also said the GST hike on mobile phone might adversely affect localisation of manufacturing as well as popularisation of the country’s digital payments objectives.

According to ICEA, 31-32 crore Indians who buy phones in the country will be impacted by the move.

Terming the move counter-intuitive and detrimental to the ‘digital India’ vision, the IDC India Research Director said, “This is a textbook case of missing the wood for the trees. This will stunt any hope of growth in the near-term, which anyway looks challenging now due to coronavirus issue at both supply and demand ends,” Singh told IANS.

Also Read- Facebook Donates $20 Million to Fight Coronavirus Pandemic

The coronavirus outbreak, which has hampered global tech giants’ 2020 plans leading to cancellation or postponement of global flagship conferences, is set to hit supplies of smartphone components from China to India at least till the second quarter of this year.

According to Tarun Pathak, Associate Director, Counterpoint Research, India smartphone market will see at least 15 per cent shortfall in shipments in the first quarter (January-March period). (IANS)