On PINs and Needles
by Bob Williams
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Allow us to “talk shop” for a little while here. Every tax season we field a lot of emails from our customers asking for help with the Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) on their return. So we figured we’d go over a few things for you so we could spare you some time and trouble.
Take It from the Top
PINs are used as a way for you, the taxpayer, to certify that the information you provide electronically is actually from you, THIS taxpayer.
There are two places in your online return where PINs come into play – the Identification PIN and the Signature PIN. Here’s how it all works:
Let’s say you’re just about done with your income tax return on 1040.com. During your e-file checkout process, you’ll be asked to identify yourself to the IRS. You can’t really flash your driver’s license through cyberspace, so we ask you to prove your identity by giving us some information only you would have access to – your PIN.
You’ll see the Identification PIN first in this process. Before your return can be filed electronically, you have to do the identity thing to prove to the IRS you are the one pushing the button. You can do that in one of two ways. The main – and preferred – method is to get an E-filing PIN instantly by following our link in your 1040.com e-filing process (you can also call the provided phone number and get it through the IRS’ automated system). This will allow you to generate a five-digit Identification PIN. Plug that number into the blank and you’re ready to move on.
If, for some reason, that process doesn’t appeal to you, follow the blue link to use your AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) from last year’s income tax return.
The important thing to remember here is the IRS is looking for one or the other – not both.
If you didn’t file a return last year, then you can just enter a zero (0) as your prior-year AGI. In fact, if you answered “no” to the question that asks if you filed last year, we automatically do that for you.
A PIN for the Future
Now that you’ve proven you are who you say you are to the IRS, you’re ready to send that return screaming through cyberspace, right? Well, almost.
Now, you have to sign your return, metaphorically speaking. And to do that you have to come up with (drum roll here) – a PIN! This one is easy, though. This Signature PIN is a five-digit number of your choosing (just don’t choose all zeroes or all nines). This is also a number that can be used next year, instead of having to dig up your AGI or get the IRS e-Filing PIN, so you really should write it down so you’ll have it close at hand when you do next year’s return. We recommend printing out your income tax return after it’s filed and writing that new PIN on the return. Keep the return printout in a safe place with your other tax documents and there won’t be any guessing this time next year.
Like so many other aspects of income taxes, PINs are a necessary piece of inconvenience. Yes, it would be great if we all lived in Mayberry and everyone knew us well enough so that we never had to prove our identities. But those days are long gone, Gomer, and Aunt Bea can’t vouch for us anymore. And there are folks out there who would love to get their hands on our return.
So we do the responsible thing: we keep track of our PINs with our other tax documents, and spare ourselves some wasted time and frustration later.
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