WASHINGTON – The Security Summit partners today encouraged tax professionals to increase their efforts to inform clients about the IRS Identity Protection PIN Opt-In Program to help protect people against tax-related identity theft.
The IP PIN serves as a critical defense against identity thieves. The IRS, state tax agencies and the nation’s tax industry – working together as the Security Summit – need assistance from tax professionals to let their clients know that IP PINs are now available to anyone who can verify their identity.
Sharing information about the IP PIN Opt-In Program is the first in a five-part weekly summer series sponsored by the Summit partners to highlight critical steps tax professionals can take to protect client data – and their businesses. The series is an effort to urge tax professionals to intensify efforts to secure their systems and protect client data during the summer and throughout the year. These alerts will be issued each Tuesday for five weeks to coincide with the IRS Nationwide Tax Forums, which helps educate tax professionals on security and other important topics.
“These identity protection numbers provide an extra layer of safety to protect people against tax-related fraud tied to using stolen personal information,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Following work by the IRS, the IP PIN program is now available to anyone who can verify their identity. We urge tax professionals to encourage their clients to protect themselves through the IP PIN program.”
The Electronic Tax Administration Advisory Committee, or ETAAC, last month highlighted the importance of the IP PIN to taxpayers and tax professionals.
“The IP PIN is the number one security tool currently available to taxpayers from the IRS,” the independent advisory group said in its annual report to Congress. “This tool is the key to making it more difficult for criminals to file false tax returns in the name of the taxpayer. In our view, the benefits of increased IP PIN use are many.”
The ETAAC also recommended the IRS continue to highlight and promote the IP PIN through a public awareness effort. The IRS will be taking steps to do that, including building off awareness of special items including Publication 5367, IP PIN Opt-In Program for Taxpayers, in English and Spanish, so that tax professionals could print and share the IP PIN information with clients. There are also special posters available in English and Spanish.
For security reasons, tax professionals cannot obtain an IP PIN on behalf of clients. Taxpayers must obtain their own IP PIN.
Summit partners urged taxpayers and tax professionals to be careful and protect the IP PIN from identity thieves. Taxpayers should share their IP PIN only with their trusted tax prep provider. Tax professionals should never store clients’ IP PINs on computer systems. Also, the IRS will never call, email or text either taxpayers or tax preparers to request the IP PIN.
Tax professionals who experience a data theft can assist clients by urging them to quickly obtain an IP PIN. Even if a thief already has filed a fraudulent return, an IP PIN would still offer protections for later years and prevent taxpayers from being repeat victims of tax-related identity theft.
Here are a few things taxpayers should know about the IP PIN:
To obtain an IP PIN, the best option is the Get an IP PIN, the IRS online tool. Taxpayers must validate their identities through Secure Access authentication to access the tool and their IP PIN. Before attempting this rigorous process, see Secure Access: How to Register for Certain Online Self-Help Tools.
If taxpayers are unable to validate their identity online and if their income is $72,000 or less, they may file Form 15227, Application for an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number. The IRS will call the telephone number provided on Form 15227 to validate their identity. However, for security reasons, the IRS will assign an IP PIN for the next filing season. The IP PIN cannot be used for the current filing season.
Taxpayers who cannot validate their identities online, or on the phone with an IRS employee after submitting a Form 15227, or who are ineligible to file a Form 15227 may call the IRS to make an appointment at a Taxpayer Assistance Center. They will need to bring one picture identification document and another identification document to prove their identity. Once verified, the taxpayer will receive an IP PIN via U.S. Postal Service within three weeks.
The IP PIN process for confirmed victims of identity theft remains unchanged. These victims will automatically receive an IP PIN each year.
Tax professionals also can get help with security recommendations by reviewing the recently revised IRS Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data, and Small Business Information Security: The Fundamentals by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The IRS Identity Theft Central pages for tax pros, individuals and businesses have important details as well.
Publication 5293, Data Security Resource Guide for Tax Professionals, provides a compilation of data theft information available on IRS.gov. Also, tax professionals should stay connected to the IRS through subscriptions to e-News for Tax Professionals and Social Media.