Prior to the start of the current tax filing season, the Internal Revenue Service mailed letters to 2.7 million taxpayers with IP PINs. For those unfamiliar with these IP PINs, they are six-digit numbers designed to provide enhanced security to those taxpayers who have been victimized or who are otherwise susceptible to tax-related identity theft.
Here, the taxpayer must append this IP PIN to either their electronic or paper return in order for it to be accepted for processing by the IRS.
While this seems like it would be a valuable safety measure, major problems actually arose back in March when it became apparent that the IRS' online IP PIN retrieval tool had major cyber security vulnerabilities.
Specifically, these vulnerabilities in the online tool, which is designed to help retrieve IP PINs for those who forgot or misplaced them, were being exploited by hackers who were stealing numbers and filing false returns in the names of program participants.
The problem became so bad that the IRS ultimately shut down the online tool on its website, such that those who misplaced their numbers were required to call the agency to verify their identity and be mailed a letter.
Just this week, however, the IRS announced that the IP PIN retrieval tool was officially back online after the aforementioned security vulnerabilities had been rectified.
An announcement from the agency indicated that if any of the 2.7 million-plus IP PIN holders mailed lose or forget their number prior to the start of the 2017 tax filing season, they will henceforth be required to complete a "multi-factor authentication process."
Indeed, they will be required to have immediate access to things like email addresses, credit card account information, loan information and a cellphone with texting capabilities.
It's encouraging to see the IRS finally get this valuable online tool restored. Here's hoping it remains safe and functional into the 2017 filing season and beyond.
If you have encountered any sort of legal troubles with the IRS, it's imperative to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can answer your questions, explain your rights and protect your interests as soon as possible.