The Internal Revenue Service’s online Get Transcript tool is once again available to taxpayers seeking to access an online copy of their tax transcripts.
The site was disabled last spring after hackers used stolen identity information to bypass security measures and access the personal information of some 700,000 taxpayers. The website was reopened some time later, but only offered transcripts by mail until the new security measures were in place.
Commissioner John Koskinen used the occasion to restate the IRS’ commitment to protect taxpayer information.
“Criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated and continue to gather vast amounts of personal information as the result of data breaches at sources outside the IRS,” Koskinen said. “In the face of that threat, we must provide the strongest possible authentication processes, while trying to enhance the ability of taxpayers to legitimately access their data and use IRS services online.”
Koskinen cautions taxpayers that increased security means a longer process to get logged into the new Get Transcript site, but it’s a necessary inconvenience that protects their personal digital information.
The New Process
To access the new Get Transcript online feature, taxpayers need an email address, a text-enabled cell phone, and specific account information (a credit card number or certain loan numbers, for example). If you registered under the old process, you’ll still need to re-register and provide the new information in order to use the online service.
As part of the new login process, the IRS sends verification codes by email and text. Those codes are good only for one-time use. Taxpayers should also note that the IRS will never initiate contact with them by email or text and ask for login information or personal data.
Once logged in, taxpayers will be able to see the date and time their Get Transcript page was last accessed. Even returning users will always have to get and enter a text code before they can get access to the online features.
No doubt, some taxpayers will find it more difficult to log into the Get Transcript site using the new, stronger process. The IRS says the other options for obtaining a transcript remain active. Taxpayers can order a transcript online or by phone for delivery by mail. Delivery time is typically five to 10 days.
Why Get a Transcript?
A tax transcript is a summary of a tax return. Transcripts are often used for non-tax purposes, such as validating income for a mortgage application or a student loan. A transcript can also be useful to find a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI) for the previous year when filing a return.
To strengthen its login procedures, the IRS brought in specialists of the U.S. Digital Service, a branch of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that brings some of the private sector’s best tech experts into government to help resolve complex issues facing federal agencies. The new access process they built meets the security standards set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, as well as the OMB.
The U.S. Digital Service is headed by Mikey Dickerson, a former Google engineer who was involved in the 2013-2014 rescue of the HealthCare.gov website.