The IRS has expanded its identity protection personal identification number (IP PIN) program to allow all taxpayers nationwide who can verify their identities to opt in voluntarily beginning in 2021. The IP PIN helps prevent identity thieves from filing fraudulent tax returns using the taxpayer’s personally identifiable information. The IP PIN is generally only used on federal tax Forms 1040 series, though it may also be used for certain other forms or schedules related to dependents.
IP PINs and Eligibility
The IP PIN is a 6-digit number assigned by the IRS to an eligible taxpayer to help prevent the misuse of his or her Social Security number (SSN) on fraudulent federal income tax returns. Starting in 2021, anyone who has a SSN or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) is eligible to voluntarily enroll for an IP PIN if able to verify his or her identity. A taxpayer’s spouse and dependents are also eligible for an IP PIN if they can pass the identity verification process.
Prior to 2021, an individual was only eligible for an IP PIN if he or she:
- was a victim of tax-related identity theft and sent CP01A Notice by the IRS containing an IP PIN for use in filing federal returns,
- received an IRS letter inviting him or her to to ‘opt-in’ to use an IP PIN, or
- previously filed a federal return in certain states with high rates of identity theft and had the option to ‘opt-in’ and request an IP PIN for the 2020 filing season.
How to Voluntarily Obtain an IP PIN
A taxpayer volunteering to use a IP PIN for the 2021 calendar year can obtain one using the Get an IP PIN tool on the IRS website. The online process requires taxpayers to verify their identities using the Secure Access authentication process if they do not already have an IRS account.
There is no need to file an individual to file Form 14039, an Identity Theft Affidavit, to opt into the program. A taxpayer who cannot verify his or her identity online and whose adjusted gross income is $72,000 or less may complete Form 15227, Application for an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number, and mail or fax to the IRS.
A taxpayer who cannot verify his or her identity online or by phone and who is ineligible for file Form 15227 can contact the IRS and make an appointment at a Taxpayer Assistance Center to verify their identity in person. However, the IRS encourages all taxpayers to first use the online IP PIN tool to obtain their IP PIN. If the taxpayer loses his or her IP PIN or does not receive one in the mail, then they must visit Retrieve Your IP PIN on the IRS website.
A taxpayer who is a confirmed identity theft victim or who has filed an identity theft affidavit because of suspected stolen identity refund fraud will automatically receive an IP PIN via mail once their cases are resolved. Current tax-related identity theft victims who have been receiving IP PINs via mail will experience no change in how they receive IP PINs.
Using an IP PIN
Once an IP PIN is issued by the IRS, it must be used by the taxpayer for the calendar year. An IP PIN is valid for only one year and the taxpayer must obtain a new IP PIN each filing season. However, a taxpayer may use their current IP PIN to confirm their identity on their current tax return and any prior year returns filed during the calendar year.
Each taxpayer claimed on a tax return who receives an IP PIN must have their IP PIN(s) entered on the tax return. This includes the IP PIN of a spouse if filing jointly and any dependent(s) included in the tax return, if applicable. For electronic returns, the tax software will indicate where to insert the IP PIN. For paper returns, enter IP PIN(s) as applicable in the boxes marked “Identity Protection PIN” in signature area of the return.
Correct IP PINs must be entered on electronic and paper tax returns to avoid rejections and delays.
Tax Forms and IP PINs
The IP PIN is only used on federal tax Forms 1040, 1040-SR, 1040-NR and 1040-PR/SS. IP PINs may not be used on Form 1040-X for amended returns or Form 4868 for filing for extensions to file returns.
If the taxpayer claims one or more dependents that have an IP PIN, then the dependent’s IP PIN must be entered on following forms if filing electronically:
- Form 1040,
- Form 2441 (Child and Dependent Care Expenses), and
- Schedule Earned Income Credit.
The taxpayer does not need to enter an IP PIN for a dependent if filing a paper tax return.
By John Buchanan, J.D., LL.M.