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Identity theft and tax refund fraud are issues no one wants to spend time thinking about. But everyone should: Untangling the mess a fraudster leaves behind can take months, or even years, so taking precautions to protect your identity now are well worth it. This year, the IRS is making those precautions easier by making Identity Protection PINs available to all U.S. taxpayers.
What is an IRS IP PIN and what does it do?
An Identity Protection PIN is a six-digit number given to you by the IRS to prevent anyone else from filing a tax return using your Social Security number. Once you receive an IP PIN, you’ll need to use it when you file your taxes. Your IP PIN should be shared only with your tax professional or when you file using tax software.
According to the IRS, an IP PIN will help secure your account: Electronic returns without the right IP PIN will be rejected, and paper returns will be subject to additional fraud checks.
Who can get an IP PIN from the IRS?
IP PINs used to only be available in certain states, but now the IRS is expanding the program nationwide. All individual taxpayers can opt in to voluntarily receive an IP PIN. Spouses and dependents can also receive IP PINs as long as they pass the identification process.
How to get an IP PIN
1. Create an account if you don’t already have one. To create an account on the IRS website you’ll need the following:
Social Security number or individual tax identification number.
You’ll also need a number from one of your financial accounts to register, such as the last eight digits of a credit card, a student loan, a mortgage or home equity loan or line of credit, or an auto loan.
The IRS will email you a code you’ll need to verify. Then, fill out the forms and verify your phone number. If at any point in this process the IRS can’t verify your information, you can skip to step three for alternative ways to apply.
2. Use the online tool to get an IP PIN. After you create an online account, use the “Get an IP Pin” button on the IRS website to register. According to the IRS, applicants must pass a “rigorous identity verification process” before being approved. Once you receive it, your IP PIN is valid for one calendar year.
If your identity has been stolen before and the IRS resolved the issues with your tax account, it will mail you a CP01A Notice with a new IP PIN each year.
3. Apply another way. If the IRS has an issue verifying your identity through the online tool, you can apply by mail, by fax or in person.
To apply by mail or fax you will need:
A Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number.
An adjusted gross income of $72,000 or less.
Access to a phone.
If you meet those qualifications, you can mail or fax Form 15227 to the IRS. The IRS will then contact you via phone, validate your identity and assign you an IP PIN for the next filing season by mail (the IRS will not allow you to use IP PINs assigned in this way for the current filing season).
To apply in person, you will need:
One picture identification document.
One additional identification document.
Make an appointment for an in-person meeting at a Taxpayer Assistance Center. After your identity has been verified, you’ll receive your IP PIN in the mail within three weeks.
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Frequently asked questions about IRS IP PINs
What do I do if I lose my IP PIN?
If you lost your IP PIN, you can use the same IP PIN tool you used to apply for your PIN on the IRS website to retrieve it. If you can’t retrieve your IP PIN online, you can call the IRS at 800-908-4490 to have your IP PIN reissued.
Can I file my taxes without an IP PIN?
Yes. Since the IP PIN is voluntary, you do not need to have one to file your taxes. If you already have an IP PIN, you will need it in order to file.
Do I need an IP PIN for my stimulus check?
No. The stimulus checks are being sent out automatically, so you should not need your IP PIN to receive one. You will need your IP PIN to file your tax return.
What other ways can I protect my identity?
To further protect your identity, you can freeze your credit, which prevents any new credit from being opened in your name. You can also set up fraud alerts, which add an extra layer of scrutiny to your credit applications.
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