IRS Identity Protection PIN: Avoiding Tax Related Identity Theft

Taxpayers should understand the IRS Identity Protection PIN program and how it can help protect individuals from tax related identity theft.

The IRS Identity Protection PIN program is making the rounds in tax news for its brand-new nationwide availability, but it is far from a new program.

First developed a few years ago to protect victims of tax-related identity theft from further or ongoing tax fraud, it was eventually made available on a voluntary basis in specific states and is now available to taxpayers everywhere in the US, as of mid-January 2021.


What is an IRS Identity Protection PIN?

The purpose of the program is to attach an individualized 6-digit PIN (personal identification number) to your electronic and paper returns, as an additional layer of security to prevent tax-related identity theft and fraud. This PIN is only known to you and the IRS.

The IRS Identity Protection PIN program is currently entirely voluntary, and the IRS is working on an opt-out program for 2022. If a PIN is associated with your taxpayer account, then your electronic returns will be rejected if they don’t use the right PIN, and your paper returns will be given more scrutiny for potential fraud.

If you want to avoid delays or unnecessary hassles, the IRS recommends that you avail your Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) now and keep it strictly confidential.

It’s meant to add an additional layer of security to your account and your tax information, and in lieu of that, the IRS clarifies that it will never call, text, or email you specifically to get your IP PIN. Any attempts to do so may be an identity theft scheme at work. Your PIN is only used to verify your identity when filing tax returns. 


When Will the IRS Identity Protection PIN Opt-In Program Begin?

It has already begun. Although the IRS Identity Protection PIN was available to victims of tax-related identity fraud in the past, it is now optionally available to all taxpayers in the US.

However, taxpayers must go through a rigorous screening procedure to verify and authenticate their identities in order to receive their IRS IP PIN.

All taxpayers are encouraged to do so through the IRS’ online tool first and use alternative methods only if they cannot successfully authenticate their identities online.


Getting an IRS IP PIN

To get your IRS Identity Protection PIN, you must visit the IRS’ official website and use their Get an IP PIN tool. The verification process requires that you have an IRS tax account verified through the Secure Access program, and the IRS will use the same program to authenticate your identity.

In order to verify your identity through the IRS’ online Secure Access registration program, you will need the following information at hand:

    • Your email address
    • Your tax identification number (TIN) or your Social Security Number (SSN)
    • At least one valid financial account number tied to your name and identity, such as:
        • Student loan account number (all lenders except Nelnet)
        • Mortgage account number
        • Home equity loan or line of credit account
        • Auto loan number
        • Credit card number (not debit, not American Express, no corporate cards)
        • Your mobile phone at hand (to receive a verification code via text). Note that you can opt to have a verification code sent via postal mail instead.

Naturally, you will also need a username and password. Be sure to keep these safe. If you have successfully verified your identity through the IRS, you will be shown your PIN online. Keep it somewhere safe or remember it.

Unlike before 2021, there is no longer a need to file a Form 14039 to get your IRS IP PIN (however, you must still file a Form 14039 if you have recently become a victim of tax-related identity theft).

If you cannot verify your identity online through Secure Access, you do have the option of filing for an IRS IP PIN through Form 15227. Be sure to mail the filled-out form to the IRS or send it to them per fax. This option is only available to taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $72,000 or less.

If your gross income exceeds this amount, then you must contact the IRS through a local Taxpayer Assistance Center (call ahead to schedule an appointment) and bring two different valid photo IDs (for example, a passport and a driver’s license).


How Long Is an IRS IP PIN Valid?

The IRS IP PIN is only valid for the year in which it is issued. The IRS will issue the PIN at any point of the year except the period between November until mid-January of the next year. You cannot use this year’s PIN to authenticate yourself in tax returns starting mid-January 2022, for example.

If you have enrolled successfully in the IRS’ IP PIN program once, then you should automatically receive your IP PIN every year from now on through the recurring Notice CP01A. Former victims of tax-related identity theft should be automatically receiving their IRS IP PIN for the year.

Again, the IRS is working on an opt-out program to be made available in 2022, so taxpayers who choose not to further verify themselves can opt to ignore the PIN option.


Misusing or Forgetting Your IRS Identity Protection PIN

If you forgot your PIN, didn’t receive it in the mail, lost it, or didn’t receive/lost your Notice CP01A, you can redo the IRS’s online Get an IP PIN process and verify your identity through Secure Access to retrieve it. It will be the same PIN you were issued previously.


How IRS IP PINs Affect Your Returns Even If You Don’t Have One

If you file jointly with your IP PIN-verified spouse or have dependents who use an IP PIN (primary, secondary, and dependent taxpayers can each avail of their own IP PIN), then your tax return may be rejected if you haven’t included your spouse’s and/or dependent’s respective IP PINs. Keep in mind that the IRS requires joint tax returns to include the PINs of any taxpayers identified on said return.


How Rush Tax Resolutions Can Help You

If you have been the victim of tax-related identity theft, with or without an IP PIN, your first call should be to a tax professional. Tax-related identity theft is a serious crime, and a tax professional will be able to guide you on your next steps. If you’ve availed an IP PIN as a result of identity theft and didn’t receive one, contact Rush Tax Resolution’s professional tax services – we may be able to help.