Six little numbers.
They could be all the difference between a happy taxpayer and someone who’s fallen victim to identity thieves.
The six numbers make up an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number, also known as an IP PIN, and they can help to keep taxpayers’ personal financial information, well, personal.
An IP PIN is a six-digit number known only to the taxpayer and the IRS, assigned to eligible taxpayers to help stop the misuse of their Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Identity thieves file fake income tax returns using these numbers to claim fraudulent refunds.
Originally, the IP PIN was meant only for taxpayers who were known to be victims of tax-related identity theft. The program was expanded earlier this year to cover any taxpayer in the U.S. who would like the extra protection an IP PIN affords on returns filed with the IRS.
"When people have this special code, it prevents someone else from filing a tax return in their name," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "The fastest way to get an Identity Protection PIN is to use our online tool, but keep in mind people must pass a rigorous authentication process. We must know that the person asking for the IP PIN is who they really say they are."
More than 5 million American taxpayers protect themselves now with an IP PIN, and the IRS recently made the process of acquiring an IP PIN easier than before.
The fastest and easiest way to get an IP PIN is online, using the IRS’ Get an IP PIN tool.
Whether the return is filed electronically or on paper, the six-digit IP PIN helps the IRS confirm that the filing taxpayer is who they say they are. The tool, at IRS.gov/ippin, provides a quick way to obtain an IP PIN; it’s also where participating taxpayers will go to get an IP PIN for the next year.
Each IP PIN is good for one year. Participating taxpayers will have to go online each January to get a new IP PIN to remain in the program.
In 2022, the Get an IP PIN tool is slated to go online January 10.
Here are some other things taxpayers need to know about the IP PIN program:
- No identity theft affidavit is required for taxpayers opting in. This means that anyone who voluntarily applies for an IP PIN doesn't need to file Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, with the IRS.
- Be sure to enter the IP PIN on any return, whether it is filed electronically or on paper. This includes any amended returns or returns for prior years. Doing so will help avoid processing delays or having the return rejected by the IRS.
- Anyone with either a Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) who can verify their identity is eligible for the IP PIN opt-in program.
- Any eligible family member can get an IP PIN. This includes the primary taxpayer (the person listed first on a tax return), the secondary taxpayer (on a joint return, the person listed second on the return) or any of their dependents.
- With one key exception, never reveal an IP PIN to anyone. The only exception is a taxpayer who uses a trusted tax professional to file their return. Even then, only share the IP PIN with the trusted tax pro when it is time to sign and submit the return. The IRS will never ask for an IP PIN. Remember to watch out: Phone calls, emails and texts requesting an IP PIN are scams.
- Identity theft victims should still fill out an ID theft affidavit. This means that any confirmed victim of tax-related identity theft still needs to file Form 14039 with the IRS if their e-filed tax return was rejected by the agency due to a duplicate SSN filing. The IRS will then investigate their case. Once the fraudulent tax return is removed from their account, the IRS will automatically mail an IP PIN to the confirmed victim at the start of the next calendar year. Because of security risks, confirmed identity theft victims cannot opt out of the IP PIN program.
Can’t pass the online authentication process?
Taxpayers who cannot pass the IRS online identity authentication process have a couple of options. One option is to file Form 15227. For the 2022 processing year, those taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $73,000 or less (or an AGI of $146,000 or less for married filing jointly) can fill out Form 15227 and then either mail or fax it to the IRS.
The taxpayer needs access to a telephone, since the IRS representative will call the taxpayer to verify their identity. Note that this option is slower than the online tool, since it will take about a month for successful IP PIN applicants to actually receive their PIN.
The second option involves making an appointment with an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center, or TAC. Taxpayers using this option should bring two forms of picture identification to the TAC appointment. Successful applicants will have their IP PIN mailed to them immediately after their visit; however, the IRS suggests allowing three weeks for delivery.
This is National Tax Security Awareness Week, which is sponsored by the Security Summit, a partnership between the IRS, state taxing agencies and tax-industry leaders. This alliance of public and private sectors has strengthened defenses against those criminals who would file fraudulent tax returns and steal refunds.