The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced on Monday that it will allow taxpayers to opt out of its facial recognition technology requirement following strong pushback from Americans.
The new statement was released by the IRS on its website Monday morning in response to ongoing privacy and security concerns as taxpayers prepare their tax returns for 2021.
“The IRS announced today that a new option in the agency’s authentication system is now available for taxpayers to sign up for IRS online accounts without the use of any biometric data, including facial recognition. This is consistent with the IRS’s commitment earlier this month to transition away from the requirement for taxpayers creating an IRS online account to provide a selfie to a third-party service to help authenticate their identity,” the IRS said in a statement.
“Taxpayers will have the option of verifying their identity during a live, virtual interview with agents; no biometric data – including facial recognition – will be required if taxpayers choose to authenticate their identity through a virtual interview,” the statement added.
The response was noted as a short-term solution as the IRS moves away from ID.me as its verification tool. The statement noted the IRS is working to roll out Login.Gov as its future verification tool.
“Taxpayers will still have the option to verify their identity automatically through the use of biometric verification through ID.me’s self-assistance tool if they choose. For taxpayers who select this option, new requirements are in place to ensure images provided by taxpayers are deleted for the account being created. Any existing biometric data from taxpayers who previously created an IRS Online Account that has already been collected will also be permanently deleted over the course of the next few weeks,” the statement noted.
The Login.Gov system is expected to be operational by the time taxpayers file 2022 taxes.
“While this short-term solution is in place for this year’s filing season, the IRS will work closely with partners across government to roll out Login.Gov as an authentication tool. The General Services Administration is currently working with the IRS to achieve the security standards and scale required of Login.Gov, with the goal of moving toward introducing this option after the 2022 filing deadline,” according to the statement.
The news marks a strong contrast to reports just last month that the IRS would soon force taxpayers to upload a photo to access certain tax tools. The Daily Wire reported on January 20:
“Starting in summer 2022, if you need to login to the IRS’s website to access the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, get your tax transcript or view a payment agreement with the agency, you will need to create an account with third-party identity verification company ID.me,” CNBC reported. “A simple username and password will no longer suffice: You will need to provide a government document with a photo, such as a driver’s license, state ID or passport, and take a video selfie with your smartphone or computer.”
An IRS spokesperson told CNBC that taxpayers can still pay or file their taxes “without submitting a selfie or other information to a third-party identity verification company” by using bank accounts, credit cards, and similar means. However, CNBC again emphasized that doing the aforementioned “basic things” — as well as “applying for payment plans” and “monitoring stimulus checks” — will require facial identification.
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