Identity Protection PINs, also referred to as IP PINs, serve as a critical defense against identity thieves. These special numbers provide an extra layer of security for taxpayers filing their tax returns. The numbers protect the taxpayer's sensitive tax return information and complicate efforts by identity thieves to file fraudulent tax returns.
More than 8 million taxpayers have taken the steps to obtain an IP PIN. To obtain an IP PIN, taxpayers can visit the Get an IP PIN, the IRS online tool.
The Electronic Tax Administration Advisory Committee, or ETAAC, last year highlighted the importance of the IP PIN to taxpayers and tax professionals."The IP PIN is the number one security tool currently available to taxpayers from the IRS," the independent IRS advisory group said in its 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."
Given the strength of IP PINs, obtaining this number can be a tempting target for identity thieves. Taxpayers and tax professionals should be careful and protect the IP PIN from identity thieves:
* Taxpayers should share their IP PIN only with their trusted tax prep provider.
* Tax professionals should never store clients' IP PINs on computer systems. This reduces taxpayer risk if a tax pro's system is compromised by an identity thief or cyberattack.
* The IRS will never call, email or text either taxpayers or tax professionals to request the IP PIN. This is a sign of a scam.
Tax professionals who experience a data theft can assist clients by urging them to quickly obtain an IP PIN. Even if a thief already has filed a fraudulent return, an IP PIN would still offer protections for later years and prevent taxpayers from being repeat victims of tax-related identity theft.
Here are a few other things taxpayers and tax professionals should know about the IP PIN:
* It's a six-digit number known only to the taxpayer and the IRS.
* The opt-in program is voluntary.
* The IP PIN should be entered on the electronic tax return when prompted by the software product or on a paper return next to the signature line.
* The IP PIN is valid for one calendar year; a new IP PIN is generated each year.
* Only taxpayers who can verify their identities may obtain an IP PIN.
* IP PIN users should never share their number with anyone but the IRS and their trusted tax preparation provider. The IRS will never call, email or text a request for the IP PIN.
* Tax professionals cannot obtain an IP PIN on behalf of clients. Taxpayers must obtain their own IP PIN.
To obtain an IP PIN, the best option is the Get an IP PIN, the IRS online tool. Taxpayers must validate their identities through ID.me to access the tool and their IP PIN. Before attempting this thorough process, see How to Register for Certain Online Self-Help Tools.
If taxpayers are unable to validate their identity online and if their income is below $73,000 for individuals or below $146,000 for married couples, they may file Form 15227, Application for an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number. The IRS will call the telephone number provided on Form 15227 to validate their identity. Once verified, the taxpayer will receive an IP PIN via U.S. Postal Service 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. They'll need to bring one picture identification document and another identification document to prove their identity. Once verified, the taxpayer will receive an IP PIN via U.S. Postal Service within three weeks.
The IP PIN process for confirmed victims of identity theft remains unchanged. These victims will automatically receive an IP PIN each year.