What is tax identity theft and how can I protect myself?
Get an IP PIN to protect yourself from identity theft.

By Tysheonia Edwards, 2022 Get It Back Campaign Intern

Identity theft happens when someone uses your personal information to commit fraud such as applying for credit cards or getting medical services. Tax-related identity theft happens when someone uses your stolen personal information, including your Social Security number (SSN), to file a tax return and claim your refund.

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How can I tell if I’ve had my identity stolen to file taxes?

The IRS will alert you if they suspect identity theft. The IRS regularly checks tax returns for possible fraud. If a tax return seems suspicious, the IRS will flag it for additional review and send you one of three letters to notify you of potential ID theft  (Letter 5071C,  Letter 5747C, or Letter 4883C). You must follow the steps in the letter for the IRS to process your tax return.

If you think you are a victim of identity theft, continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must file a paper return. You can also file Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit if the IRS tells you to, or if the IRS hasn’t contacted you about identify theft and you want to alert them about your situation.

Who is at risk of identity theft?

Identity theft can happen to anyone. Children and seniors are at greatest risk. Children’s identity theft can go unnoticed for years. Some won’t discover it until they are adults and are applying for loans or credit cards or filing their own taxes for the first time.

Since seniors may begin using more services that request their personal information, their risk increases because of the greater number of places with access to their personal data.

Luckily, you can take steps to help reduce tax identity theft.

What is an IRS Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN)?

An Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) is a six-digit number that the IRS can issue to prevent someone else from filing a tax return using your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). The IRS only shares your IP PIN with you. IP PINs help the IRS verify your identity when you file taxes electronically or by mail. The IRS will send you a new IP PIN each year.

An IP PIN can protect your information even if you don’t have to file taxes. You may want to file a tax return even if you aren’t required because you may qualify for a refund through tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit.

Who can get an IP PIN?

If you’ve experienced identity theft, you can get an IP PIN. The IRS will automatically send you an IP PIN if you have received any of the following:

  • An IP PIN last year
  • A CP01A Notice
  • An IRS letter or notice inviting you to opt-in to get an IP PIN

If you want to protect your information and you haven’t experienced identity theft, you can also get an IP PIN.

How do I get an IP PIN?

The quickest way to get an IP PIN is to use the online IRS Get an IP PIN tool. The IP PIN tool is usually available from mid-January through mid-November.

To use this tool, you need to have an IRS online account. If you don’t have one, you will need to create a new account and verify your identity using ID.me before using the Get an IP PIN tool.  You will need to provide a photo of an identity document such as a driver’s license, state ID, or passport. Once you create your ID.me account, follow the instructions provided to get your IP PIN. You will see it right away or it will be sent in the mail.

If you are unable to use the online tool, you have options. You can mail IRS Form 15227, Application for an Identity Protection Personal Information Number (IP PIN). For more information, see, I can’t verify my identity through the Get an IP PIN tool. What should I do?

What do I do if I lost my IP PIN or never received it in the mail?

Do not file IRS Form 15227 to apply for a new IP PIN. If you lose your IP PIN or you didn’t receive the CPO1A Notice with your new IP PIN, you’ll need to recover it online or have it resent to e-file your return. If you file a paper return without your IP PIN, the IRS will not process your tax return.

Here are some options to track down your IP PIN:

  • If you already created an IRS online account and got an IP PIN, go to the Get an IP PIN tool and log in to your account. Remember, you must create an IRS online account (if you don’t already have one) before using the tool.
  • If you’re unable to find your IP PIN online, call the IRS at 800-908-4490, Monday – Friday, 7 am – 7 pm your local time. (Alaska & Hawaii follow Pacific Time.) Someone from the IRS will ask questions to verify your identity and then mail your IP PIN to the address the IRS has on file for you within 21 days.

How do I use an IP PIN to file my taxes?

Enter the six-digit IP PIN when asked by your tax software or your tax preparer. An IP PIN can only be used to file IRS Form 1040, 1040-PR, or 1040-SS. You will receive a new IP PIN each year. Make sure you provide the IP PIN for the current year.

Enter your IP PIN correctly when you file your tax return to avoid rejections and delays. The IRS will reject any electronic tax return filed with an incorrect or missing IP PIN or delay the processing of a paper return.

Keep your IP PIN private. Only share your IP PIN with your tax preparer when you are ready to sign and submit your return. The IRS will never contact you and ask for your IP PIN. If you receive a phone call, email, or text asking for your IP PIN, do not respond. It is a scam which you can report to the Federal Trade Commission here.

What happens if I don’t file my tax return with my IP PIN?

If you were issued an IP PIN, you must use it when you file taxes. If you don’t, the IRS will reject your electronic return and you won’t be able to e-file. Filing a paper return without an IP PIN means that the IRS will need to do additional screenings to verify your identity which can delay any refund you may be due.

I can’t verify my identity through the Get an IP PIN tool. What should I do?

If you want an IP PIN but can’t prove your identity through the Get an IP PIN tool, there are other options however, it will take longer for the IRS to assign an IP PIN to you.

1. Mail an application

  • You can use IRS Form 15227, Application for an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number if you have:
    • A valid Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
    • Adjusted gross income on your last filed return below $73,000 for Individuals or $146,000 for Married Filing Jointly
    • Access to a telephone
  • The form asks for your name, address, phone number, and taxpayer identification number.
  • Once the IRS gets the form, someone will call the phone number you provide to ask questions to verify your identity. Then the IRS will mail your IP PIN within four to six weeks. Since IP PINs expire after one year, the IRS will continue to mail your IP PIN each year. For security reasons, the IRS will provide the IP PIN for the next filing season. Depending on when your request is received, you may have to wait to use your IP PIN.

2. Schedule an in-person meeting

Where do I enter the IP PIN on my tax return?

It depends on how you file your taxes.

  • For e-filing:
    • Your tax software will tell you where to enter the IP PIN or your tax preparer will enter it for you. If you’re using a tax software and can’t find where to enter your IP PIN, search for “Identity Protection PIN” or “IP PIN” or contact the software’s help desk.
    • You must enter the IP PIN for each person listed on the tax return who receives an IP PIN, including dependents.
  • For paper returns:
    • Enter your IP PIN in the box that says, “If the IRS sent you an Identity
      Protection PIN, enter it here,” next to the signature line of the tax return.
    • Enter the IP PIN for the filer and spouse, if filing jointly and you both have IP PINs.
    • You don’t have to enter an IP PIN for your dependents if filing a paper return.

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