Now you can protect your income tax information as easily as you can freeze your credit report. It’s a sign of the times that everyone’s financial identity is at risk. The IRS is now expanding its Identity Protection PIN program, formerly available only to victims of identity theft, to all taxpayers who can securely verify their identities.
The panic of the breaches at Equifax and major retailers in the past few years has come to fruition in a nationwide raft of identity theft connected to inept state unemployment offices that were overwhelmed with claims, including nontraditional self-employment claims for benefits.
As well, in recent years, a growing number of tax filers have been told that an income tax return has already been filed for their Social Security number — and a refund sent fraudulently to a bank account.
The new Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) is aimed at preventing that problem. The IP PIN is a six-digit code known only to the taxpayer and to the IRS. It prevents identity thieves from filing fraudulent tax returns using a taxpayers’ personally identifiable information.
For information on getting this PIN, go to IRS.gov/secureaccess. The IRS has just created an online tool called “Get an IP Pin” at IRS.gov. If you already have an IRS account (and have access to your tax account or online payment agreement), you can use that same username and password to get your IP PIN, or you can create an account with the IRS online.
Establishing an IP PIN online
–To register online you will need your email address and Social Security Number or ITIN.
–You’ll need your most recent tax return and your mailing address on IRS records.
–You’ll need to provide one financial account number linked to your name. For example, it could be a credit card (but not a debit card or American Express) or a student loan account number. You could also use a mortgage or home equity loan or line of credit.
–You must provide information about a U.S.-based mobile phone that is linked to your name. That’s so you can receive an activation code to complete the process. Once you receive your PIN, this mobile phone number will be used to verify your identity by text (two factor authentication) every time you sign in to your account.
If your income is $72,000 or less, you can file by mail using Form 15227 to verify your identity. You will then be contacted by the IRS to verify over the phone. If you apply in that manner, your PIN will be effective for the next tax year, not the current one. Another way to get your PIN is to go to an IRS taxpayer assistance center, which as a practical matter these days is almost impossible. You’ll need to verify in person and must bring two picture IDs, as well as the above information.
When to use your IP PIN
If you register online, you get your PIN immediately. Keep this number top secret, although you will need to give it to your trusted tax preparer or, if you file online, enter it in the software. No one from the IRS will ever call you to request your IP PIN. The PIN will be used next to the signature line on your tax return.
The IRS IP PIN changes for every calendar year. You must return online to your account to get a new PIN for that tax year’s filings. For more details go to IRS.gov/secureaccess.
There is one other consideration, and that is the potential hassles that come from having a PIN that must be renewed each year. It adds a layer of complexity to your relationship with the IRS. Last Spring, when the IRS offices closed for the pandemic, many taxpayers couldn’t get an individual appointment to get their PIN renewed, and thus couldn’t file their tax returns.
And that, my friends, is the price we pay for technology and complexity in our finances. If even the credit bureaus, state agencies and large businesses cannot secure our personal information, it’s worth taking every possible step to do it ourselves. Especially when it comes to the IRS. And that’s The Savage Truth.