In the past, the IRS has assigned verification numbers to victims of identity theft to file their tax returns, if requested by the victimized individual. The number is referred to as an identity protection PIN (IP PIN). The IP PIN is a six-digit code known only to the taxpayer and the IRS. It helps prevent identity thieves from filing fraudulent tax returns using a taxpayer’s personally identifiable information.
The IP PIN serves as the key to an individual’s tax account. Electronically filed returns that do not contain the correct IP PIN will be rejected, and paper returns will go through additional scrutiny for fraud. Effective now, anyone can request an IP PIN, it is no longer limited to victims of identity theft. Given the uptick in unemployment tax fraud, where thousands of social security numbers were compromised, now is the time to consider obtaining the IP PIN.
Key Facts About the Identity Protection PIN
- The program is voluntary.
- You must pass a rigorous identity verification process before IRS will issue you an IP PIN.
- Spouses and dependents are eligible for an IP PIN if they can verify their identities.
- An IP PIN is valid for one calendar year only. A new IP PIN will be automatically sent to you each year, once you have been verified the first year.
- Correct IP PINs must be entered on electronic and paper tax returns to avoid rejections and delays.
- Never share your IP PIN with anyone but your trusted tax professional. The IRS will never call, text, or email requesting your IP PIN. Beware of scams to steal your IP PIN.
- Taxpayers who are confirmed identity theft victims or who have filed an identity theft affidavit because of suspected stolen-identity refund fraud will automatically receive an IP PIN via mail once their cases are resolved. Current tax-related identity theft victims who have been receiving IP PINs via mail will experience no change.
How to Obtain an Identity Protection PIN
If you want an IP PIN for 2021, visit IRS.gov/IPPIN and use the “Get an IP PIN” tool. This online process will require that you verify your identity using the Secure Access authentication process if you do not already have an IRS account. Visit IRS.gov/SecureAccess for a list of the information you need to be successful. After you have authenticated your identity, a 2021 IP PIN will immediately be revealed.
All taxpayers are encouraged to first use the online IP PIN tool to obtain their IP PIN.
My Experience with Obtaining an Identity Protection PIN Online
I was interested in trying out the process of obtaining an IP PIN personally. Unfortunately, the process of verifying my identity wasn’t as smooth as expected. It turns out that a large part of the verification process is through your cell phone. And what happens when the cell phone plan is not in your name but in your spouse’s name? Well, Plan B! The next step was for the IRS to mail a code to my home address. Upon receipt of the code, I could verify my identity and register my cell phone. Once in the system, less than a minute passed before I had my IP PIN. While in this particular case I faced an additional obstacle, it is still worth having the added security around filing my taxes and I would still recommend going through the process.
Final Option to Obtain an Identity Protection PIN
Taxpayers who cannot verify their identities online have other options. Certain taxpayers may complete Form 15227, Application for an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number, and mail or fax it to the IRS. An IRS customer service representative will contact the taxpayer and verify their identity by phone. Taxpayers should have their prior year’s tax return on hand for the verification process. Taxpayers who verify their identities through this process will have an IP PIN mailed to them the following tax year. This is for security reasons. Once in the program, the IP PIN will be mailed to these taxpayers each year.
We believe the identity protection PIN program is an important part of protecting your tax identity. If you have questions, please contact Cray Kaiser.
Please note that this blog is based on tax laws effective in January 2021, and may not contain later amendments. Please contact Cray Kaiser for most recent information.