I needed to amend my 2013 tax return so I went to H&R Block, my first mistake. A few weeks later I went back to the H&R block office to pick up my amended return and other supporting documents. It seems like all my information is present and correct but I haven't verified this. However, I noticed a 1099 form that looked unfamiliar. Upon closer inspection, it was the 1099 of a different H&R Block customer that included the person's name, address, social security number, and other tax related info. I looked up the person's full name on Facebook and based on the info in his profile I'm 99% certain I found the right guy. So far I have escalated the issue with H&R Block but it will take 7-10 business days for them to email me back. I can't go back to the physical location since it's closed for over a week. I'm keeping the form safe in my apartment for now. I live in San Francisco, CA.

  • Since I'm now in possession of this person's personal info do I have to take any special action to avoid any legal trouble?

  • Does this person have grounds to sue H&R Block since they compromised his info?

  • Is reaching out to this guy on Facebook so we can talk in-person the right thing to do? If he wants to sue H&R Block I want to help him do that. I could ask him for his address to verify that it's actually him.

  • Should I shred this person's 1099 form immediately or hold on to it incase he wants to sue H&R Block?

  • Do I have grounds to sue H&R Block? For all I know our info was swapped and this guy now has my 1099 form.

  • Am I legally allowed to take photographs of this person's 1099 form as proof that H&R Block put it in my possession?

  • I don't know that you have a legal obligation here, but I would try to figure out who their compliance officer is and let them know that they have had an incident so they can investigate and maybe put some controls in place to prevent future incidents. Also, I would find someone else to do my tax preparation. There may be a regulatory agency you can file a report with, but I don't know which applies specifically in this situation. – ColleenV Oct 22 '15 at 20:22
up vote 7 down vote accepted

First of all, the USA's legal system is not here to be referee to every single little "gotcha" mistake, and every little mistake doesn't mean a payday for someone.

The employee at the tax preparer screwed up. They mixed up your folder with the other guy's folder. It was an honest mistake, which is another way of saying "nobody stands to gain from this."

The best LEGAL action you can take is to either destroy the copy in your possession, or mail it back to the tax preparer, and call it a good day, done well.

The law of torts exists to adjudicate sincere and structural divergences of interests, not to fix silly mistakes.

As a point of law, what was the damage of this "event?" Some random person (you) saw a 1099 belonging to someone else. In good faith, you attempt to find and reinstate the rightful owner with their document. All good.

As it is, you have zero "standing" in a case of inadvertent clerical error between two other parties.

  • 1
    As a concerned citizen, it would be very much within your purview to chew out and otherwise rip the tax preparer a " new orifice for defecation," over their lax management and control of documents, and demand that they observe industry standard methods for avoiding client exposure to "bad hat" exploitation of their personal data. – dwoz Oct 22 '15 at 20:12
  • 2
    There are regulatory issues here because the business is required to protect your personal information (NPI non-public information ) Writing it off as a clerical error may be OK legally, but ethically I think the incident should be reported. – ColleenV Oct 22 '15 at 20:19
  • 4
    @ColleenV, H&R Block likely (most certainly) has to conform to at least PCI standards, if not SAS-70 certification rules, so yes, they've been very very bad little children here. In terms of torts...has the injured party actually suffered a "real" injury or only a theoretical injury...that's for them to decide. This third-party original poster has no standing in that, though he might find himself deposed if either ACTUAL interested party decided it was worth pursuing. :) – dwoz Oct 22 '15 at 20:25
  • 2
    I agree that there's no standing for a tort, but I work in the financial services industry and have had it drilled into me that leaks like this are career-ending for more than just the person who made the mistake :) I'm not sure of how it works in the tax preparation industry, but I assume it's similar due to licensing requirements. – ColleenV Oct 22 '15 at 20:30
  • 2
    @Colleen...I also work in the financial industry (probably as a "client" of you not a "peer" and you're right...screwing up stuff like this often means bigger issues than "oh, gosh, golly gee! " There is, however, a "retail" aspect to this that changes a lot of those drivers. – dwoz Oct 22 '15 at 20:38

Your Answer

 

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.