IRS Identity Protection PINs are Available for Everyone
The IRS has, ahead of schedule, rolled out the ability for any interested individual to obtain an Identity Protection PIN.
The PIN is a six-digit code provided by the IRS to a taxpayer for a specific tax year. It is entered on that taxpayer’s Form 1040 as a means of preventing identity thieves from filing a fraudulent return and hijacking the taxpayer’s refund. A return filed using that taxpayer’s name and Social Security Number, but lacking the PIN, will be rejected and scrutinized.
Curiously, PINs historically have been issued only if the IRS determined one was necessary. Taxpayers could not simply request PINs, unless able to establish that they were already the actual or potential victims of identity theft. As discussed in an earlier BNN article, in 2019 Congress changed this restriction by instructing the IRS to incrementally, over a 5-year period, open up enrollment in the PIN program to anyone who wanted one. The IRS completed their task a few years early, and as of this month, if you want a PIN, you now can have one.
How do I get a PIN?
There are three alternative ways to request a PIN.
- Old-school option #1 – Taxpayers whose income is $72,000 or less and who have a Social Security Number may request a PIN by completing Form 15227, and mailing or faxing it to the IRS. The IRS will then contact you by phone to finish the application process, which will include asking questions about your most recently-filed return.
- Old-school option #2 – Any taxpayer may use the irs.gov/getanippin link to schedule a visit at a local IRS office to conduct the application in person. Plan to bring a photo ID and a second form of identification with you.
- New-school option – Taxpayers can apply solely online using the IRS “Get an IP PIN” tool. You will need to provide some data as part of this process, a list of which can be found at the IRS Secure Access Registration. The IRS estimates the registration can be completed in around 15 minutes.
Old-school applicants will receive their PINs in approximately 3 weeks by mail, while online applicants will receive theirs immediately online.
Note that those who received PINs in the past (for instance, for use with their 2019 and earlier returns) do not need to apply under any of the options above. You will receive one for 2020 and future years automatically (no change).
What’s the shelf life of this thing?
A PIN expires after one year. More accurately, each PIN applies only to one specific person, for one specific tax year (for instance, a 2020 Form 1040 for Jane Doe). Once you are in the PIN system, a new PIN must be obtained each year to enable future years’ returns to be processed. (Currently there is no way “out of the system” once in, but the IRS is working on a process by which taxpayers can opt out beginning next year.) The IRS clearly states that those who successfully apply via an old-school method will receive a new PIN automatically by mail each successive year. Less clear is the path to future PINs for online applicants; it is clear that once in the PIN ecosystem, they will need new ones each successive year, but the IRS has not clearly explained whether any action is required in subsequent years on the taxpayer’s part to obtain them.
Does my spouse need one?
One spouse filing as part of a joint return is not required to obtain a PIN just because his or her spouse obtained one, but each spouse has the option to acquire one. As explained above, once you start using PINs, you must continue to do so in successive years as well.
What else do I need my PIN for?
The PIN serves a singular purpose: It is to be entered onto your 1040 before filing to help prevent ID theft – nothing more, nothing less. It is not needed for any other reason, outside or even inside the IRS. The IRS itself states that once assigned, no IRS representative will ever ask you for your PIN. In fact, the IRS warns that if anyone contacts you claiming to be an IRS representative and asking for your PIN, it is a scam. (They will call you once, to finish the application process and help you obtain your PIN, if you opt for the first alternative method of acquiring one described earlier. But once you have it, it is off limits for any use other than plugging it into your tax return.)
Your tax accountant, by contrast, does need your PIN! As noted above, some applicants can expect a 3 week turnaround time between applying and receiving their PIN. Also recall that 1040s will be rejected if a PIN has been obtained, but is not entered on the paper or electronic return (even if you are awaiting receipt of that PIN in the mail). This suggests that if you want one, you should begin the process right away to avoid delays.
Former victims of IRS identity theft can attest that it involves a massive hassle and a significant amount of time to undo the damage caused by successful scammers who stole their refunds. In exchange for the minor hassle of the application process, the IRS now offers increased protection from that potential mess to any individual taxpayer who wants it. Taxpayers who are concerned about identity theft should consider the new ability to obtain an IRS Identity Protection PIN, and if interested for their upcoming 2020 tax returns, they should move very quickly.
For more information, please contact your BNN tax service provider at 800.244.7444.
Disclaimer of Liability: This publication is intended to provide general information to our clients and friends. It does not constitute accounting, tax, investment, or legal advice; nor is it intended to convey a thorough treatment of the subject matter.