Prevent Stolen Tax Returns With This IRS Tool


Illustration for article titled Prevent Stolen Tax Returns With This IRS Tool
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The IRS has an effective tool for preventing identity theft, and it’s now available to all taxpayers: a six-digit PIN that prevents scammers from filing a fraudulent tax return using your Social Security number. Here’s how you can get your own now to use when you file your current tax return.

How does the PIN work?

Previously, only victims of identity theft qualified for an identity protection PIN, but all taxpayers are eligible to use it in 2021. The number is used to verify your identity on federal tax forms 1040, 1040-SR, 1040-NR, and 1040-PR/SS (the PIN is entered in the box marked “Identity Protection PIN” next to “Your signature and occupation”). Considering that the social security numbers of nearly half the country have been compromised in some way, you could think of the PIN as being like an actual security number.

The only tradeoff is that the verification process is quite thorough, and you won’t be able to file your taxes without the PIN. That means you’ll have to be careful to not lose or forget the number. Also, you can’t use the same PIN every year; the IRS will mail you a new one each year before tax season.

How to get a PIN 

Taxpayers who want a PIN for 2021 should go to the IRS’s site and select the blue button labelled “IP PIN tool.” You will need your Social Security number or a taxpayer identification number, a phone number, and identifying information for financial accounts in your name, like a credit card or mortgage loan (applicants without internet access making less than $72,000 can get a PIN by filing Form 15227). Otherwise, you can visit a Taxpayer Assistance Center and verify your identity in person. The IRS says that an assistor will verify your identity and mail a PIN to your address of record within 21 days.

Per the IRS, here are some key facts about the PIN program:

  • This is a voluntary program.
  • Spouses and dependents are eligible for a PIN if they can verify their identities.
  • The PIN is valid for a calendar year.
  • People must get a new PIN each filing season.
  • The online PIN tool is offline between November and mid-January each year.
  • Correct IP PINs must be entered on electronic and paper tax returns to avoid rejections and delays.
  • Taxpayers should never share their IP PIN with anyone but their trusted tax provider.
  • The IRS will never call, text or email requesting their PIN.
  • People should beware of scams to steal their PIN.
  • There currently is no opt-out option, but the IRS is working on one for 2022.

For more information about the identity protection tool, check out this FAQ page.