Do you use an online tax preparation service assuming your data is private? You may only be half correct. While the details you enter are not freely available, some of your information may have been collected and shared with Facebook.
According to a recent article co-published by The Verge and The Markup, major tax filing services were sending information using a Meta Pixel embedded on their sites. Once received, Facebook used the information in their advertising algorithms.
Here’s what each platform was sharing:
- TaxAct: filing status, adjusted gross income, refund amount, dependent names
- H&R Block: Health Savings Account (HSA) usage and dependents’ college tuition grants and expenses
- TaxSlayer: phone numbers, user names, dependent names
- Ramsey Solutions: personal data, income, and refund amounts
- Intuit: user names, email addresses and order ID numbers
Most of the pixels have now been removed, but the question remains if there will be any penalties levied on the companies involved. Internal Revenue Code § 7216 prohibits tax return preparers from “knowingly or recklessly disclosing tax return information or using tax return information for a purpose other than preparing, or assisting in preparing, an income tax return,” and those found guilty can receive monetary penalties and/or jail time.
There is very little you can do about this, unfortunately, if you use an online tax preparation service. While the companies say they have removed the pixels, there’s nothing to guarantee that they won’t be added back at some point. As we learn new information, we will share it with you. In the meantime, be careful out there!