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If you keep an eye on tax news, you may have heard some chatter about the IRS soon requiring a video selfie for account sign-in. That plan is no more: The IRS announced Monday that it was walking back the controversial mandate. Taxpayers will no longer need to submit a face scan to access their online accounts.
The decision follows widespread criticism of the agency’s decision to work with ID.me, a third-party company that uses facial-recognition technology, to conduct identity verification services.
"The IRS takes taxpayer privacy and security seriously, and we understand the concerns that have been raised," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement released by the agency on Monday. "Everyone should feel comfortable with how their personal information is secured, and we are quickly pursuing short-term options that do not involve facial recognition."
Previously, the agency had announced that all taxpayers needing to access their online accounts and select applications would be required to re-enroll using ID.me by this summer, a process that requires submission of biometric data in the form of a face scan.
Controversy surrounding ID.me
Data security experts immediately raised the alarm about what a relationship between a private company, such as ID.me, and a government agency like the IRS would signal for Americans' privacy.
Several members of Congress — including Reps. Yvette Clarke, Anna Eshoo, Pramila Jayapal and Ted Lieu — in a letter sent to the agency Monday, outlined their concerns about ID.me's lack of transparency regarding the company's use of 1-to-many facial matching. The lawmakers also pointed to the dangers of implementing facial-recognition technology on the federal level, including evidence that it often fails people of color and can lead to bias and misidentification.
Though the agency had previously emphasized that an online IRS account isn't necessary to file taxes, many people need the accounts to access the child tax credit update portal, manage their identity protection PINs, request transcripts and sign up for installment plans. ID.me’s heavy reliance on smartphones and webcams for identity authentication — technologies that some Americans may not feel comfortable navigating or cannot afford access to — also drew concern from critics.
What the change means for taxpayers
The IRS will "transition away" from using ID.me to authenticate new users’ identities in the coming weeks, according to Rettig. The agency stressed that the decision to move away from the use of third-party authentication services would not have an impact on the current tax-filing season.
But taxpayers and tax preparers are still bracing for a messy tax season as the agency continues to work through a massive backlog of paperwork from prior years. Further complicating matters are a few tax changes that came out of last year. For example, consumers may need to reconcile advance child tax credit payments or claim the recovery rebate credit to collect missing stimulus check funds that were sent to eligible taxpayers in 2021.
Working with a qualified tax professional or using tax-filing software can help you make sure your return is complete and accurate, which can speed up processing. The IRS also recommends filing electronically, which can get you a faster refund — often within 21 days of filing, according to the agency.