Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, John Burzichelli, Troy Singleton and Marlene Caride to help protect sensitive tax information recently was approved by the General Assembly.
The bill (A-4994) would require certain state and local government agency employees with access to federal tax information to undergo criminal history background checks. The measure would allow New Jersey to comply with recent updates to tax information security guidelines for federal, state and local agencies adopted by the Internal Revenue Service under its Safeguards Program, which is aimed at protecting the confidentiality of tax return information.
“Individuals who have been convicted of theft or forgery may not be the best individuals to trust with such sensitive information,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “We have a responsibility to the taxpayers. Requiring a criminal background check for government employees who have access to this information can help prevent having such delicate information fall into the wrong hands.”
“Taxpayers should not have to worry about sensitive information being misused by people who work for the government,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “This can help ensure that current and prospective employees who handle this information can be trusted with it.”
“The people of New Jersey need to be able to rest assured that their personal information is secure with government employees,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “That trust is fundamental to preserving the integrity of government in our state.”
“Considering the amount of sensitive information government employees have access to, it’s important that they have a record of honesty and good judgement,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Requiring background checks for government employees will give the public greater peace of mind regarding protecting their identity when dealing with government agencies.”
Under the bill, a state or local government agency that obtains federal tax information would be required to have criminal history record background checks conducted for any individual employed by that agency or employed or utilized by a contractor of that agency who is authorized to have access to federal tax information. The bill requires a follow-up criminal history record background check to be conducted at least once every ten years.
Under the bill, each individual with access to federal tax information would have to submit his or her name, address and fingerprints taken by a state or municipal law enforcement agency or by a private entity under contract with the state. The fingerprints and written consent to the check then would be submitted to the state police for a criminal history record background check, and the superintendent of the state police would compare the fingerprints with those on file with the Bureau of Identification in the Division of State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
An individual may have access to federal tax information if his or her background check does not reveal a record of conviction of any crime or disorderly persons offense involving theft, forgery or fraudulent practices. The individual would be disqualified from having access to federal tax information if his or her background check reveals a record of conviction of any of those crimes or offenses, unless the individual has affirmatively demonstrated to the agency clear and convincing evidence of rehabilitation.
If a prospective employee refuses to consent to a background check, the state or local government agency would be prohibited from employing or utilizing that person in a position for which access to federal tax information is required. If a current employee refuses to consent to the check, the employing agency shall terminate his or her access to federal tax information and may remove him or her from any position requiring such access, but shall make a reasonable effort to retain the employee in another position that does not require access to federal tax information.
The bill directs the state police to notify the agency if an individual who was the subject of a background check is convicted of a crime or offense in this state after the date that the check was performed. Upon receipt of such notification, the agency head is required to make a determination regarding the individual’s qualification to access federal tax information.
The bill, which received unanimous Assembly approval Thursday, now awaits further Senate consideration.