The IRS has recently experienced controversy around its online identity verification system. Like most things with the federal government, this is an ongoing and developing situation. We’ll look at what the current state of this matter is, as well as upcoming changes. First, however, let’s dive into the current process of online IRS identity verification.
How to Verify Identity Online with the IRS
According to IRS.gov, online identity verification is possible with the IRS if you meet the following conditions:
- You received a 5071C letter, 5747C letter, 6331C letter, or 5447C letter and your financial and phone information is U.S. based, or; An IRS representative directed you to use it.
- You have Photo identification — if you don’t have an existing ID.me account or IRS username, and the Form 1040-series tax return for the year shown on the letter
From there, you’ll either need to create an ID.me account or log in to your existing ID.me account and verify from there. This begs the question, though–what is ID.me and how is it related to the IRS?
ID.me: Online Facial Recognition For Identity Verification
In 2021 the IRS signed a two-year, $86 million contract with ID.me with the hopes of empowering Americans to verify their identity online. According to ID.me, ID.me is a “trusted technology partner to multiple government agencies. We provide secure digital identity verification to help government agencies make sure you’re you — and not someone pretending to be you – when you request access to government services online.”
However, within the first year of the contract controversy has erupted around ID.me’s collection of biometric data. And change is on the horizon.
ID.me IRS Online Verification Backlash
Almost immediately upon the IRS’ announcement of the requirement of ID.me’s facial recognition for identity verification, there was backlash and controversy. Tonya Riley, a privacy and cybersecurity reporter at CyberScoop had the following to say, “There were a lot of concerns about such a massive amount of Americans’ data being collected by a third-party private company. We’re talking about biometric data — this isn’t something like your credit card number. You can’t replace your face in quite the same way. There were a lot of concerns, you know, what is this company? What are they doing to secure this data? Why does the IRS need to use facial recognition? And there just weren’t many answers from the agency, so we saw a lot of lawmakers acting quite swiftly to try to get those answers.”
And act swiftly they did, so the IRS had to make a change especially when the government’s own central management office refused to use the service.
GSA2022: Login.gov vs ID.me
The agency that refused the change is the General Services Administration (GSA), which oversees federal offices and technology. GSA has an authentication service Login.gov. This service doesn’t require any facial recognition technology and relies on more traditional identity verification methods like government records and credit reports.
The IRS describes their current ID.me online portal as a temporary solution. After the 2022 tax filing season has concluded–the IRS plans to work with GSA to further roll out Login.gov as its tool for online identity verification.
IRS Identity Verification Issues Highlight Larger Frustrations
The current IRS system for online identity verification is in flux due to controversy and discord. This is yet another example of how working with the federal government can be an opaque and frustrating process. Working with professionals like those at FAMR will help anyone alleviate the pain caused by interacting with such a massive organization as the federal government. As always the professionals at FAMR will continue to monitor these developments and update this piece as needed.