What is an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN)?

An Identity Protection PIN is a unique six-digit number, known only by you and the IRS, that prevents someone else from filing a tax return using your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.

This PIN is a critical safeguard against unauthorized individuals filing fraudulent tax returns in your name. Like any other PIN, it authenticates that you are who you say you are, thereby protecting your account and personal information.

The program is voluntary — however, the IRS highly recommends taxpayers take this proactive step to protect themselves from tax-related identity theft.

Using an IP PIN adds an additional barrier that enhances the security of your sensitive financial information and reduces the risk of falling victim to identity theft.

How do I find my Identity Protection PIN?

If you want to request an IP PIN, please note:

  • You must pass an identity verification process.
  • Spouses and dependents are eligible for an IP PIN if they pass the identity verification process.

Here are a few more things taxpayers should know about the IP PIN Opt-In program before applying:

  • The IP PIN is valid for one calendar year. Each January, the taxpayer must obtain a new one.
  • The Get an IP PIN tool is offline starting in November each year and becomes available again in mid-January.
  • You must enter your IP PIN correctly on electronic and paper returns to avoid rejections and delays.
  • There is no opt-out option, but the IRS is working on one.
  • Never share your IP PIN with anyone but your trusted tax provider. Beware of scams to steal your IP PIN — the IRS will never call, text, or email requesting your number.

The fastest way to obtain an IP PIN is by using the online Get an IP PIN tool between mid-January and mid-November. If you don’t already have an account on IRS.gov, you must register to validate your identity using the Secure Access authentication process.

If you cannot successfully validate your identity using this tool, there are alternatives to apply for your PIN.

However, these methods take longer than the online tool for the IRS to assign your IP PIN to you.

So, what if you can’t access the Internet?

An IRS update issued earlier this year outlines two ways taxpayers unable to use the online tool can retrieve their IP PIN.

The first option is Form 15227.

If your adjusted gross income falls below $73,000 for Individuals or $146,000 for those filing jointly, and you’re unable to utilize the online tool, Form 15227, Application for an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number is available to you.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A valid Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
  • An adjusted gross income meeting the criteria
  • Access to a telephone

Once you fill out and submit Form 15227, the IRS will contact you to validate your identity using the phone number you provided on the form. Once the verification is complete, anticipate your IPPIN’s arrival via the U.S. Postal Service within four to six weeks. Subsequently, expect annual deliveries of your IP PIN right to your mailbox.

Two important notes of caution: First, keep in mind that due to the processing timeline, it could take the IRS up to six months to finalize Form 15227 requests.

Second, if you have an existing IP PIN that you cannot retrieve, you should not apply for a new one using Form 15227. This form application process is only for taxpayers who are newly opting into the program.

Your other option is In-Person Identity Verification.

In cases where online verification or Form 15227 isn’t a viable avenue, or you don’t meet the Form 15227 criteria, you can make an appointment for a face-to-face meeting at your local Taxpayer Assistance Center.

Here’s your checklist for this option:

  • One current government-issued photo identification document
  • An additional identification document to solidify your identity

After successfully validating your identity, the IRS will send your IP PIN via the U.S. Postal Service in approximately three weeks. You will subsequently receive your IP PIN in the mail annually.

How to use an IP PIN

To use your PIN, you can enter it when prompted by your tax software product or provide it to trusted tax professionals (like us!) who are assisting in preparing your return.

An important point: you will use your IP PIN only on Forms 1040, 1040-NR, 1040-PR, 1040-SR, and 1040-SS.

You must enter your PIN correctly on electronic and paper tax returns to avoid rejections and delays. An incorrect or missing IP PIN will result in the rejection of your e-filed return or a delay of your paper return until it can be verified.

If you lose your IP PIN or don’t receive a new one in the mail, you’ll need to retrieve it before you can e-file your return. You can do so using the Get an IP PIN online tool to retrieve your current PIN. (If you don’t already have an account on IRS.gov, you will be asked to register and validate your identity; due to increased security, you may also be asked to verify your identity again, even if you have an existing account.)

Finally, if you are unable to retrieve your PIN online, you may call the IRS at 800-908-4490 for specialized assistance Monday through Friday, 7 AM to 7 PM your local time — unless it’s after October 14 and you haven’t filed your current or prior year Forms 1040 or 1040 PR/SS.

In that event, if you cannot use the online tool, your best alternative is to file your tax return by paper without your IP PIN. The IRS will then review your return to confirm it’s yours, but this could delay any refund you may be due.

If dealing with retrieving or replacing your PIN sounds like a headache-inducing hassle, then there’s another priority to keep in mind — one that’s vital for anyone taking advantage of this program.

Protect your IP PIN

Remember, your IP PIN should be known only to you and the IRS. That means don’t reveal it to anyone!

You can reveal your PIN to a trusted tax professional, but only when you are ready to sign and submit your return.

The IRS will never ask for your IP PIN, and any phone calls, emails, or texts asking you for it are scams — always.

In closing…

Operating as a business allows you to deduct expenses and losses that you cannot as a hobbyist. Operating as a hobby limits your deductions but does allow you to avoid paying self-employment tax.

Getting this wrong can have serious implications, and whether you operate a business or a hobby is more complicated than whether or not you make a profit. It is about intent, which depends on interpretation.

Understanding how the IRS determines these classifications can save you from heavy penalties or even an audit… not to mention making your activity more successful and rewarding, whether it’s for business or pleasure.

Would you like some help?

If you are a client and would like to book a consultation, call us at +1 (212) 382-3939 or contact us here to set up a time.

If you aren’t a client, why not? We can take care of your accounting, bookkeeping, tax, and CFO needs so that you don’t have to worry about any of them. Interested? Contact us here to set up a no-obligation consultation.