If you want to access your tax records online, as soon as this summer you'll have to submit a selfie to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to verify your identity to access your account.
CNET reports the federal tax agency contracted with ID.me, a third-party service, to protect users' privacy and reduce fraud.
To verify their identity with ID.me, taxpayers will need to provide a photo of an identity document such as a driver's license, state ID, or passport. They'll also need to take a selfie with a smartphone or a computer with a webcam. Once their identity has been verified, they can securely access IRS online services, the IRS explained in a November press release.
Users who already have IRS usernames may continue to use their credentials from the old system to sign in until this summer, but will then be prompted to create an ID.me account as soon as possible, the IRS said.
The new process is one more step the IRS is taking to ensure that taxpayer information is provided only to the person who legally has a right to the data.
"Identity verification is critical to protect taxpayers and their information. The IRS has been working hard to make improvements in this area, and this new verification process is designed to make IRS online applications as secure as possible for people," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "To help taxpayers and the tax community, we are improving the accessibility of online tools that help families manage their Child Tax Credit, check on their IRS accounts and securely perform other routine tasks online."
Taxpayers who need help verifying their identity or submitting a support ticket can visit the ID.me IRS Help Site.
The IRS said the change is necessary to protect U.S. taxpayers from identity theft.But as multiple news outlets report, privacy advocates say it's invasive and point out that the company behind ID.me has a spotty record in verifying people's identities.
The move "will only lead to further ruin for Americans when their data is inevitably breached," Jackie Singh, director of technology and operations at the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, said on Twitter.
But why is the IRS putting this method of identification into service now?Daniel Morris, a CPA based in California, told CBS News, "Privacy and data theft is significant at the IRS. They are deathly afraid of a hack."
"The service is trying to modernize, and make sure from a data protection standpoint … they want to make sure that someone who is getting your data is authorized," Morris added.
But Bloomberg reports the system has received numerous complaints from frustrated unemployment applicants who said they couldn't get past the verification process.
In a January 2021 letter to the state's Employment Development Department, California state Senator Anthony Portantino wrote that his staff had been "inundated with urgent pleas" from constituents whose benefits were on hold as a result of problems with ID.me.
"This recent purge has put thousands of legitimate claims in limbo, with no instructions for how to get out of 'ID verification jail'," he wrote.
As CBN News has previously reported, the IRS has struggled to protect taxpayer data for years. Between 2011 and 2015, the IRS flagged nearly 1.1 million returns that appeared to have a stolen Social Security number, but the agency never bothered to tell the victims.
In a statement to CBS News, an IRS spokesperson said Americans would not need to take a selfie or create an ID.me account in order to file their 2021 tax return.
"The IRS emphasizes taxpayers can pay or file their taxes without submitting a selfie or other information to a third-party identity verification company. Tax payments can be made from a bank account, by credit card or by other means without the use of facial recognition technology or registering for an account," the spokesperson said.
But users will need to register with the ID.me system to see their IRS online account, past payment records or transcripts, gain access to their Child Tax Credit portal, get an Identity Protection PIN, or to see their online payment agreement.
Additional IRS applications will transition to the new method over the next year, the IRS said.
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