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Why the IRS scrapped plans to use facial recognition for taxes
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Security & privacy

The IRS has a new plan to verify taxpayers’ identities – Here’s how

Late last year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) unveiled a plan to verify the identity of taxpayers through a third-party facial recognition company. As you can imagine, the decision wasn’t met kindly by many as privacy concerns were quickly pointed out.

The company contracted to do the facial recognition, ID.me, sparked privacy concerns among politicians and digital rights advocates for their methods. The IRS later announced it would “transition away” from requiring video selfies to log into accounts, check previous filings or use other online tools and come up with another way.

Now the agency has a new plan to verify identities without taxpayers providing any biometric data. But facial recognition is once again an option.

Here’s the backstory

In a series of tweets earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said that the plan to use facial recognition was deeply troubling, specifically that the technology is “less accurate for people of color.” This is in addition to ID.me’s software sporadically failing to identify people or attribute the wrong account to a taxpayer.

That, and that the facial recognition software also poses a huge barrier for people unfamiliar with the technology and those without a stable internet connection. When the IRS announced on Feb. 7 that it would no longer be using ID.me, the agency said it would soon develop a verification process that doesn’t involve facial recognition.

Two weeks later, on Monday, Feb. 21, those details were announced. The new plan for the IRS involves verifying identities through virtual interviews — using ID.me.

What you need to know

According to a news release issued by the IRS, taxpayers now have the option to verify their identities during live, virtual interviews with agents. The agency stresses that no biometric data will be required for those interviews.

However, taxpayers once again have the option to verify their identity using ID.me’s facial recognition services. Addressing privacy concerns, the IRS says new requirements are in place to ensure that images provided will be deleted upon verification. That would apply to any new IRS accounts created and those where selfies have already been collected.

Tap or click here for additional information on how you can verify your identity for the IRS through ID.me.

The IRS says this is a short-term solution for this year’s filing system, as the agency works to roll out a new authentication tool through Login.gov. There’s no date when that option will be available, but it will be after the 2022 filing deadline.

What to do if you already signed up for one of these ID.me accounts

If you want to delete your existing ID.me account, keep in mind there’s a caveat. This company also works with other government agencies. If you delete your account, you won’t be able to reopen one later using the same email address as before.

That shouldn’t be a problem if you have a few backup emails lying around. If you want to organize your email addresses, we’ve got you covered. Tap or click here to gather and view all your email addresses in one spot.

Without further ado, here’s how to delete your account:

  • First, sign into your account online.
  • Then, tap or click on the Sign In & Security tab. You may have to confirm your identity, so prepare for multi-factor authentication.
  • In the left column, tap or click Close Account.
  • Select I would like to close my account.

Just like that, you’re wiped from the system. Check out these two helpful articles below if you want more handy tech tips.

Other options

If you struggle with filing your taxes the old-fashioned way, several free IRS programs can help you. For example, if you earn $58,000 or less, you can enroll in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). It is also the preferred program to help people with disabilities and limited English-speaking taxpayers.

There is also a Tax Counseling for the Elderly program. It targets any taxpayer aged 60 or older who has specific questions about pensions and retirement-related issues. The IRS also rolled out a program to assist visually impaired people.

You could also take advantage of the IRS Free File. The program is now open, and you can prepare and file your Federal taxes for free. It provides two ways for taxpayers to prepare and file their federal income tax online for free:

  • Guided Tax Preparation provides free online tax preparation and filing at an IRS partner site. IRS partners deliver this service at no cost to qualifying taxpayers. Only taxpayers whose AGI is $73,000 or less qualify for a free federal tax return using IRS Free File guided tax preparation.
  • Free File Fillable Forms are electronic federal tax forms, equivalent to a paper 1040 form, you fill out online for free. If you choose this option, you should know how to prepare your own tax return. It is the only IRS Free File option available for taxpayers whose income (AGI) is greater than $73,000.

You’ll find more information and IRS Free File options here.

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