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Published:   |   Last Updated: March 27, 2024

Identity Verification and Your Tax Return

Identity theft issues impact millions of taxpayers each year, resulting in considerable delays and taxpayer burden. In the 2023 Annual Report to Congress, National Taxpayer Advocate Erin M. Collins discussed how each year, the IRS flags millions of returns for potential fraud. In 2022, the IRS suspended processing of 4.8 million tax returns pending identity verification. That’s 4.8 million taxpayers who had to do extra steps before their tax return could be processed. However, there are a few things that taxpayers can do to help ensure that your identity can be authenticated as quickly as possible.

Get an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN)

Any taxpayer who wants to protect themselves from tax-related identity theft can request an IP PIN, and taxpayers who have experienced tax-related identity theft are automatically issued an IP PIN at the time the IRS resolves their case. The IP PIN is a unique number known only to the taxpayer and the IRS.  Taxpayers in the IP PIN program receive a new IP PIN annually. Read more about the benefits of an IP PIN in the NTA Blog, “Identity Protection PINs: What to Know.”

Respond to IRS Letters

When the IRS is questioning whether a return is legitimate, it will send taxpayers a letter asking them to authenticate their identity, and it will not process their return and issue their refund until the taxpayer responds to the letter and completes the authentication process. You can learn more about this in the NTA Blog, “Where’s My Refund? Has Your Tax Return Been Flagged for Possible Identity Theft?

Taxpayers whose tax returns have been flagged for possible identity theft should receive one of the following letters:

These letters provide several ways taxpayers can authenticate their identity, including using an online option or calling the IRS directly. In limited situations, taxpayers will be asked to make an appointment at a Taxpayer Assistance Center and authenticate their identity in person.

If the letter cannot be located, taxpayers should check their IRS online account or call the Taxpayer Protection Program (TPP) phone line at 800-830-5084. (If a taxpayer lives outside the U.S., they should call 267-941-1000.) As of January 29, 2023, for those taxpayers who receive a letter asking them to authenticate their identity and return information online, they can go into their online account, which will tell them they need to verify information on their tax return before it can be processed. This will direct the taxpayer to the Identity and Tax Return Verification Service website.

Set Up an Online Account

Your IRS online account is a simple and secure way to access your tax records, make and view payments and more. If you are a new user, you will have to set up your account and verify your identity using ID.me. You can use either a self-service process that requires a photo of a government ID and selfie, or a live call with an ID.me video chat agent that doesn’t require biometric data. Any selfie, video, and/or biometric data will be deleted automatically, except for suspicious or fraudulent activity. If you need help verifying your identity or to submit a support ticket, you can visit the ID.me IRS Help Site.

Check Your Transcripts

Once you have signed up for your online account, you can check your tax transcript for updates to your tax return. If you see code 570, that means that there is a delay in processing your return. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there is anything wrong with your return, but you may receive a request for additional information – including a request to verify your identity. Once the IRS has sent a notice or letter asking you for additional information, you may see a code 971. Make sure you check your mail to ensure that you receive your letter or notice and respond in a timely fashion so that your tax return can continue processing. And don’t forget to report any address changes to the IRS to make sure that your letter can reach you.

If you have any questions about letters or notices received from the IRS, make your first stop the Taxpayer Roadmap. Just enter the letter or notice number to find out more about it and where you are in the tax process.

As you make your way through tax filing season, don’t forget that you have rights as a taxpayer. Learn more about the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

Have a problem with the IRS that you haven’t been able to solve on your own? See if you qualify for TAS help.

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