Identity thieves continue to target taxpayers, but the Internal Revenue Service has given individuals a way to fight back.
By using an Identity Protection Person Identification Number, or IP PIN, instead of their usual Social Security number, taxpayers can show the IRS that the IP PIN filing is the legitimate one.
Even if a thief already has filed a fraudulent tax return, an IP PIN offers protection for later years, preventing taxpayers from being repeat victims of tax-related identity theft.
Success of IP PINs: The IRS began allowing all taxpayers to apply for an IP PIN in January 2021. Before then, the special six-digit number was available only to filers who were part of IRS' pilot programs testing how well the alternate filing IDs worked.
The IP PIN passed those tests.
More than 8 million taxpayers have taken steps to get an IP PIN, which an independent IRS advisory committee calls a top taxpayer protection option.
"The IP PIN is the number one security tool currently available to taxpayers from the IRS," the Electronic Tax Administration Advisory Committee (ETAAC) said in its 2022 annual report to Congress. "This tool is the key to making it more difficult for criminals to file false tax returns in the name of the taxpayer. In our view, the benefits of increased IP PIN use are many."
That analysis is among the reasons that the IRS and its Security Summit partners are reminding taxpayers, during this year's annual summer tax security series, about the IP PIN option.
IP PIN overview: An IP PIN is a special six-digit number that only the recipient taxpayer and the IRS know.
The IRS emphasizes that it will never call, email, or text taxpayers requesting their IP PIN. If you get one of these contacts, it is part of an identity theft scheme.
Also note that even your reputable, trustworthy tax pro cannot obtain an IP PIN on your behalf. Taxpayers must obtain their own IP PIN.
You enter your IP PIN on your electronic tax return when prompted by the software product you use. If you're filing a paper tax return, the IP PIN goes on Form 1040 next to the signature line.
Getting an IP PIN: The decision to get an IP PIN is completely voluntary. To obtain one, go to the IRS' online tool Get an IP PIN.
Although the choice is yours, there are situations where obtaining an IP PIN is recommended.
People whose personal information has been compromised often choose to get the special filing number. This makes it impossible for the thieves to use the stolen info to file a fake return.
Getting an IP PIN also could be a good idea for taxpayers who typically file late in the regular tax season, or who get filing extensions.
The IP PIN is valid for one calendar year. A new IP PIN is generated each year.
Proving you are you: The IRS will issue you an IP PIN only after you satisfactorily verify your identity.
That's done by using your ID.me information to access the at the aforementioned (and linked) IP PIN tool. Before starting the IP PIN process, check out IRS.gov's How to Register for Certain Online Self-Help Tools.
If you run into difficulty validating your identity online, and your income is less than $73,000 for individual filers or $146,000 for married couples, you can file complete Form 15227, Application for an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number. That's an excerpt below.
After getting that form, the IRS will call the telephone number you provided on Form 15227 to validate your identity. Once verified, you'll receive your IP PIN via U.S. Postal Service mail within four to six weeks.
Taxpayers who cannot validate their identities online or on the phone with an IRS employee after submitting a Form 15227, or who are ineligible to file a Form 15227, may call the IRS to make an appointment at a Taxpayer Assistance Center.
When you go to your local TAC to get an IP PIN, bring one picture identification document and another identification document to prove their identity. Once verified by a TAC employee, you'll receive your IP PIN in the mail within three weeks.
Again, an IP PIN is your choice. Some folks might be hesitant to have to deal with (and remember) yet another ID number.
But as long as tax identity thieves are still out there, and that's likely to be forever, then an IP PIN is a great way to preempt their criminal attempts.
You also might find these items of interest:
- Don't ignore tax identity theft letters from IRS
- Be on guard against summer surge of tax schemes
- Stop tax ID theft by applying for special IRS ID number
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