New IRS Online Security Process: Is It Safe?

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If you want to access your Internal Revenue Service (IRS) account online, soon you’ll have to verify your identity through a third-party company called ID.me.

“People who already have IRS usernames may continue to use their credentials from the old system to sign-in until summer 2022, but are prompted to create an ID.me account as soon as possible,” the IRS says on its website.

The company, founded in McLean, Virginia, formed in a city known for its proximity to The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency.

It initially offered daily deals — Groupon for American military members, essentially. Now it’s the backbone of the IRS’ new strategy to move to a more digital-friendly, convenient system and safeguard against tax fraud.

“We had a huge spike starting in about 2014 [of] people that were doing tax ID theft. Where they would file a tax return as if they were you. And then you’d go to file your return and it wouldn’t be accepted,” money expert Clark Howard said on a recent podcast.

“And if you were due a refund, a legitimate refund, you would wait for it as much as 14 months. So the IRS has adopted a procedure to try to ferret out the tax fraudsters and make sure that only the legitimate taxpayer can file his or her return and not some crook run off with the money.”

In order to verify your identity through ID.me, you’ll need the following:

  • Email address
  • Phone (cell phone or landline)
  • Computer or cell phone with camera
  • Government-issued ID (driver’s license, state ID, passport or passport card)
  • Social Security number

Note that ID.me does not require a credit check.

You’ll need to take a selfie with your camera on your smartphone or computer and submit it along with your Social Security number and government ID information. If you fail the identity verification, you’ll join a video call so that an ID.me “referee” can manually verify you.

“Making you go through an identity verification service absolutely is the least bad option versus what was happening before,” Clark says.

Says the IRS: “The new process is one more step the IRS is taking to ensure that taxpayer information is provided only to the person who legally has a right to the data.”

To be clear, you aren’t required to interact with ID.me to file your tax return. And again, existing IRS online users may be able to continue as normal through the summer of 2022 before the IRS requires them to convert.

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At that point, the following IRS online services will require registering with ID.me:

It’s possible that the government could decide to revoke ID.me from the IRS ecosystem.

Bloomberg reported that the IRS is exploring alternatives to ID.me, which has received criticism from privacy advocates worried about data breaches. For now, though, there are no immediate plans to replace ID.me.


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