No drop in SC electronic tax returns after hacking

The (Columbia) StateApril 7, 2013 

COLUMBIA -- The number of South Carolinians filing their taxes online with the state Department of Revenue has not declined significantly, despite last year's computer hacking at the agency.

With seven 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. In recent years, 80 percent to 85 percent of taxpayers have filed electronically, agency spokeswoman Samantha Cheek said.

In September, hackers stole information from electronically filed tax returns for 3.8 million consumers, as well as 1.9 million dependents and nearly 700,000 businesses. The stolen tax records dated to 1998.

Data from paper returns were not stolen, leading to speculation that more 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 hacking of a state agency.

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

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

The state agreed to pay Experian $12 million 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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