Beginning in January 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will be expanding the voluntary Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) program.
What Is An IP PIN?
An IP PIN is a six-digit number assigned to eligible taxpayers to help prevent tax refund fraud on federal income tax returns. An IP PIN helps the IRS to verify a taxpayer’s identity. It’s used for Forms 1040, 1040PR, and 1040SS (you will not use it on an amended return or on a request for extension).
I like to think of the IP PIN like the security code on the back of your credit card: without your assigned IP PIN, your tax return can’t be processed. If a tax return is e-filed with your SSN but an incorrect or missing IP PIN, the IRS e-file system will reject the return until you submit it with the correct IP PIN. If a tax return is filed on paper with your SSN but an incorrect or missing IP PIN, the IRS will delay processing the return – including any refund due – while they determine the validity of the return.
Previously, confirmed identity theft victims would receive an IP PIN if their identity theft case was resolved before the start of the next filing season. And, if you resided in one of 20 locations, you were eligible for the online IP PIN Opt-In Program. In 2020, to be eligible, you must have filed a federal return in 2019 as a resident of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas or Washington. The IRS had noted last year that they would be expanding eligibility for the IP PIN Opt-In Program.
Beginning In 2021
Beginning in 2021, taxpayers may go to the Get an IP PIN tool on the IRS website, be authenticated, and immediately access a six-digit IP PIN. If you have a Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), and you can verify your identity,you’re eligible for the Opt-In program. To opt-in, you must use the online Get an IP PIN tool.
What If You Can’t Authenticate Your Identity Online?
If you cannot authenticate your identity online and you make $72,000 or less, you may file Form 15227, Application for an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number, which will be available beginning January 2021. An IRS assistor will call you with a series of questions to verify your identity, and the IRS will issue your IP PIN at the start of the next calendar year.
If you cannot authenticate online and you make more than $72,000, you may have an option to verify your identity in person at an IRS office (this is still being vetted).
No matter the circumstances, you cannot obtain an IP PIN by calling the IRS.
Valid For One Year
IP PINs are only valid for one calendar year. You’ll have to renew your IP PIN each year, and if you lose your IP PIN, you’ll need to retrieve it or have it reissued to e-file your return. So be thoughtful, since there currently is no opt-out feature.
It’s Not Your Filing PIN
Don’t confuse the IP PIN with the 5 digit PIN you use to e-file your returns: those PINS aren’t interchangeable.
Keep It Secure
Once you have your IP PIN, don’t pass it around. Your tax professional will need it to prepare your return, but otherwise, keep it close. According to the IRS, the agency will never ask for your IP PIN. That’s good information to help you avoid phone, email, or text scams trying to trick you into revealing your IP PIN.
Victims Of Identity Theft
One more thing: if you are a victim of identity theft, follow the standard IRS recommendations. Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit (downloads as a PDF), is still applicable when your e-filed return is rejected because of a duplicate SSN filing. Once the case is resolved, the IRS will automatically send you an IP PIN via US mail at the start of the next calendar year.
Resources In Other Languages
If you need more information about IP PINs, you can find available resources on the IRS website in English, Spanish, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Korean, Russian, Vietnamese, and Haitian Creole.