The IRS has temporarily suspended the $7.2 million, no-bid contract it awarded to Equifax to verify the identities of taxpayers when they create accounts on its website, the agency said today.
The short-term suspension means that taxpayers will not be able to establish new accounts through a program called Secure Access, which grants them access to online records and transcripts. Those taxpayers who already have accounts will not be affected, the agency said.
The decision comes after media reports earlier today that the Equifax website may have been compromised a second time. The embattled credit-reporting company disclosed in September that it had been hacked earlier this year and the data of as many as 145.5 million Americans had been breached.
The IRS plans to continue reviewing the security of Equifax’s systems during the suspension. The agency had previously said its hands were tied and it had to keep the contract with Equifax.
“The IRS emphasized that there is still no indication of any compromise of the limited IRS data shared under the contract. The contract suspension is being taken as a precautionary step as the IRS continues its review,” agency spokesman Matthew Leas said in a statement.
Lawmakers heavily criticized the agency’s decision to award the $7.2 million contract to Equifax — first reported — after the data breach. In letters to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, some members of Congress questioned whether Equifax could be trusted to handle taxpayer data and suggested the contract should be revoked.