Tax guide

Identity Protection PINs

Updated for filing 2021 tax returns

Identity theft is a crime that affects victims for years after it’s committed—from dealing with ruined credit to tax debt, recovery is an ordeal.

Fortunately, there is another layer of protection for your identity that specifically helps during the tax-filing process, and that’s an IP PIN.

What is an IP PIN?

An Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) is a six-digit number that only you and the IRS know; it helps verify your identity when you file your taxes online or even on paper, which prevents someone else from filing a tax return using your Social Security number.

Better yet, your IP PIN changes every year, which adds even more security.

Who gets an Identity Protection PIN?

IP PIN applications are open to everyone who can prove their identity through the IRS’s rigorous vetting process.

Confirmed victims of tax-related identity theft whose tax account issues have been resolved will automatically receive a CP01A Notice with a new IP PIN from the IRS each year.

Do I need an IP PIN if I don’t have to file taxes?

Even if you aren’t required to file, you might still want to get an IP PIN. Even if an identity thief has your prior-year AGI, their fake return won't be accepted if it doesn't have your IP PIN on it, too.

That extra layer of protection is valuable, especially because it’s free. After all, an identity thief with your SSN could still file a return in your name—even if the IRS isn’t expecting you to file.

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If I have an Identity Protection PIN, can I choose not to use it on my tax return?

The IRS will only accept a tax return that has your IP PIN included—even if it includes your correct prior-year AGI—so if you have an IP PIN, you must use it on your tax return. 

For filers, the IP PIN entry comes after the prior-year AGI page. If you don't have your prior-year AGI, here's what to do.

How do I apply for an IP PIN?

If you’ve never been a victim but want to get an IP PIN, you can apply online. Before you begin, make sure you have these things ready:

  • Email address and mailing address (make sure it’s the one from your most recently filed tax return)
  • Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)
  • Tax filing status
  • One financial account number linked to your name, such as:
    • Credit card
    • Student loan
    • Mortgage or home equity loan
    • Home equity line of credit (HELOC)
    • Auto loan
  • Mobile phone linked to your name (for faster registration) or ability to receive an activation code by mail

Want a checklist? Grab our IP PIN printable.

Update February 7, 2022: You may need to set up an account for verification, but the IRS will be transitioning away from facial recognition technology by the end of February 2022.

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