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By Debbie Gregory.

Equifax is set to receive $7.25 million to help the IRS identify taxpayers and prevent fraud under a no-bid contract. Equifax is currently embroiled in a massive security breach that exposed the personal information of some 145 million Americans.

The IRS needed to outsource this work because it’s handling a dispute on a different contract that affects its ability to fulfill these duties.

According to the Federal Business Opportunities database, the contract is a “sole source order,” meaning Equifax is the only company deemed capable of providing the service.

The partnership between the IRS and Equifax has received bipartisan flak from both sides of the aisle. Lawmakers feel that it is irresponsible for the IRS to turn over millions in taxpayer dollars to a company that in the midst of one of the most massive data breaches in a decade.

“The Finance Committee will be looking into why Equifax was the only company to apply for and be rewarded with this,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR.) “I will continue to take every measure possible to prevent taxpayer data from being compromised as this arrangement moves forward.”

The IRS took a defensive position, saying that Equifax told the agency that none of its data was involved in the breach.

Equifax already provides similar services to the IRS under a previous contract.

While Equifax’s September data breach has mostly subsided, but the actual damage will play out for years. Attackers initially got into the affected customer-dispute portal through a vulnerability in the Apache Struts platform, an open-source web application service popular with corporate clients. Apache disclosed and patched the relevant vulnerability some six months earlier.

Additionally, Equifax stored sensitive consumer information in plain text rather than encrypting it.

Equifax is one of three major credit reporting bureaus whose data determine consumer credit. This includes those trying to qualify for mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, etc.

Do you think the IRS made the right decision?

Government Contracts

Obtaining government contracts can significantly increase a small business’ chance of success. The U.S. government awards close to $500 billion to buy goods and services each year. More than $100 billion of those contracts are designated for small businesses. Small business owners would be wise to capitalize on the government’s need for contracting them. However, medical contracting with the government is much different than selling to the private sector.

There are resources for small business owners who wish to locate and obtain government contracts. Federal Business Opportunities, price also known as FedBizOpps.Gov, clinic is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Their website, www.fbo.gov contains a wealth of information. The main function of the site is to allow government “Buyers/Engineers” to post, manage and award contract listings, and allow vendors/small business owners to search, view and retrieve the contract listings. Hundreds of opportunities appear on the site daily. There are currently more than 22,100 contract opportunities posted.

The FedBizOpps site also includes business training information and site user guides. The site posts information about events, news and changes in policy. Buyers and vendors need to set up a user account to access the site.

Another valuable resource that small business owners looking to obtain government contracts should utilize is the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA works with federal agencies to ensure that at least 23% of government contracts are awarded to small businesses. The SBA’s website, www.sba.gov offers small business owners dozens of courses in government contracting. Each course is online and self-paced. These courses are free to use, but each course requires users to complete a registration form. The courses can be found on the website’s, Government Contracting Classroom portal.

The ability to obtain government contracts can make or break a company. Armed with the right tools, any small business can be awarded valuable government contracts. Make sure that your business is properly equipped to succeed.

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