What is an IRS Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN)?
The start of tax season has arrived, and I wanted to share a PSA for readers that the IRS is now allowing all taxpayers to apply for an Identity Protection PIN (or, “IP Pin”). Basically, an Identity Protection PIN is a unique identifying 6-digit code known only to the taxpayer and the IRS, that is used at the time of tax filing. In a way, you can think of it as 2-factor authentication, but for tax filing.
As the IRS states,
This is a way to, in essence, lock your tax account, and the IP PIN serves as the key to opening that account. Electronic returns that do not contain the correct IP PIN will be rejected, and paper returns will go through additional scrutiny for fraud.
This identity and tax fraud protection measure was previously only available to those who were confirmed identity theft victims, but now it is available to all taxpayers. Given a recent year estimate of over $14.5 billion in identity theft tax fraud, I think it would be a wise time investment to successfully apply for an IP PIN, and use it. I can think of few things worse than filing a tax return, expecting a refund (the average tax refund was most recently $3,145), and finding out that someone fraudulently got there first, using your name, and then having to clean up the mess they left for you with the IRS.
In the past, I have recommended a hodgepodge of solutions to readers to prevent tax fraud, such as signing up for USPS Informed Delivery to protect yourself against mail identity theft, filing your tax return ASAP and not waiting until the tax deadline, requesting an EIN number, creating an IRS account, and even using credit freezes. While those things are all generally good identity protection practices, applying for an IP PIN is a much more fail safe and convenient method to prevent tax identity theft and fraud specifically.
How to Get an Identity Protection PIN from the IRS
To get an Identity Protection PIN, start by going to the IRS’s IP PIN Tool. You need to voluntarily opt-in to the program to get one. There is no charge for this service.
Opting in will kickstart a “rigorous” identification verification process (their words). A few key things to note about the program:
- Spouses and dependents are eligible for an IP PIN if they can verify their identities.
- An IP PIN is valid for a calendar year.
- Once you have opted in and obtained an IP PIN online, you will need to retrieve your IP PIN online each calendar year as a CP01A Notice will not be mailed (they were mailed previously, so this is a newer change).
- The online IP 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.
- Never share your IP PIN with anyone but your trusted tax provider. The IRS will never call, text or email requesting your IP PIN. Beware of scams to steal your IP PIN. Note: if you e-file your taxes through any legit tax software program (see my picks for the best and cheapest tax software), you should be able to enter your IP PIN into that software in order to file.
- You only need to opt-in once – not every year.
- There currently is no opt-out option.
- If you lose your PIN, you should be able to retrieve it from within your account or by calling the IRS at 1-800-908-4490.
You’ll need the following information to get an online account started with the IRS, in order to request an IP Pin:
- Email address
- Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)
- Tax filing status and mailing address
- One financial account number linked to your name:
- Credit card – last 8 digits (no American Express, debit or corporate cards) or
- Student loan – (Enter the student loan account number provided on your statement. The account number may contain both numbers and letters. Do not include any symbols.) Additionally, we can’t verify student loans issued by Nelnet. or
- Mortgage or home equity loan or
- Home equity line of credit (HELOC) or
- Auto loan
- Mobile phone linked to your name (for faster registration) or ability to receive an activation code by mail
The IRS has put together a helpful list of FAQs for more information.