If you thought your tax filing nightmare was over, think again! The IRS has just announced that online tax filers will now be required to submit a selfie for facial recognition to a third-party identity verification company called ID.me. This third party identification software has grown enormously over the last decade with private and government sectors taking advantage of centralized identity management. This new measure is intended to combat tax fraud, but many taxpayers are concerned about the privacy implications of this new policy.
"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."
In order to file, review your tax filings or make IRS payments online, you will now need to submit a selfie along with other identification numbers and documents to ID.me for verification. Starting this summer, users with an IRS.gov account will be required to provide a government identification do so.
The new system of identification is part of a broader federal mandate developed under the Secure Access Digital Identity initiative (SADI) to incorporate more secure access to personal documents. The original IRS press release citing the change in procedure was published in November 2021 and stated the changes would start rolling out to tax filers in 2022. by the summer of 2022 you can expect to be required to use the new facial recognition system to access your federal tax documents.
When does the new IRS verification system begin?
People who already have IRS usernames may continue to use their credentials from the old system to sign-in until summer 2022 then you will be required complete the ID.me verification to continue to access your online tax tools with the IRS.
Why is the IRS using identification services?
From the November 2021 IRS press release: "To provide verification services, the IRS is using ID.me, a trusted technology provider. 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." ... "The IRS also integrated this new account-creation process into some applications used by tax professionals, including those used to request powers of attorney or tax information authorizations online using Tax Pro Account or to submit Forms 2848 and 8821 online."
What can you access using facial recognition on irs.gov now?
Taxpayers using the new verification procedure can gain entry to existing IRS online services such as the:
- Child Tax Credit Update Portal
- Online Account
- Get Transcript Online
- Get an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN)
- Online Payment Agreement
What is ID.me?
Launched in 2010, ID.me is an identity verification software platform that uses a combination of Artificial Intelligence, including facial recognition, and individual agents to verify a persons identity online prior to logging onto their online account platforms such as the IRS and non-profits.
Per the company's FAQ page "ID.me’s next-generation identity platform meets the highest federal standards and is approved as a NIST 800-63-3 IAL2 / AAL2 conformant credential service provider by the Kantara Initiative. Our technology is used by millions of individuals and hundreds of partners, including federal and state agencies, healthcare organizations, financial institutions, retailers, and nonprofits. ID.me is the only provider with video chat and is committed to “No Identity Left Behind” to enable all people to have a secure digital identity."
"The Kantara Initiative is a unique global ‘commons’ that operates conformity assessment, assurance and grant of Trust Marks against de-jure standards under its Trust Framework program whilst in parallel nurturing ‘beyond-the-state-of-the-art’ ideas and developing specifications to transform the state of digital identity and personal data agency domains."
What is facial recognition?
Facial recognition is a technique for recognizing or validating an individual's identification by examining at their face. Facial recognition software can identify persons in photographs, videos, or in real time. However, recognition - based data is prone to errors, which can lead to persons being accused of crimes they did not commit. Facial recognition software is particularly weak at distinguishing African Americans and other ethnic minorities, women, and young individuals, frequently misidentifying or failing to identify them, affecting specific groups disproportionately.
Can I trust ID.me with my private information?
Here is the million dollar question. How do you trust a private institution, or the government for that matter, with your most sensitive information? I think the attractiveness of central authorities for such systems are lowest hanging fruit on the idea tree. The idea has been used by dictators and repressive regimes to control information for 1000s of years and I fear we are just looking at the modern manifestation of this ideology. At only 10 years old, I believe the company lacks the experience of protecting human rights and is motivated purely for profits making it an even easier target for the most greedy persons or governments. I would love to know what you think in the comments below!
How do I access the IRS tax tools now?
When accessing the tools listed below, taxpayers will be asked to sign in with an ID.me account. People who already have IRS usernames may continue to use their credentials from the old system to sign-in until summer 2022, but are prompted to create an ID.me account as soon as possible. Anyone with an existing ID.me account from the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, or from another government agency, can sign in with their existing credentials.
What do I need to verify my identity with the IRS now?
You will need to verify your identity with the following:
- Email address
- Social Security number
- Photo ID (Driver's License, Passport, Passport Card, or State ID)
- Mobile phone with camera
- Laptop or computer with a webcam (optional)
The steps that id.me outlines can be found here and seem pretty straightforward however complaints around social media and medium have shown this is not the case. When entering your information you may run into issues if you are even slightly off. Did you have trouble logging in? Let me know your experience in the comments below!
Can I still submit my tax return by mail?
Other industry members have reported access issues which may require paper filings yet again. For example, your first attempt is likely to fail if you do not have a U.S. address and U.S. phone number (Skype “landlines”, Google VOIP, etc. are unlikely to work.) At the time of this writing, there is no way to enter a foreign country or get past the requirement to enter a U.S. state in the default address section in the ID.me signup.
Filing by mail is still supported however you can expect long delays in processing and if you are expecting a refund it may take a long time to receive. The digital identity verification is particularly attractive to users expecting a refund, the IRS says e-filing using the new system will be the fastest way to receive your refund so I guess we willjust have to wait and see how it works out!