IRS to require some online users to use facial recognition software

Beginning in the summer of 2022, the IRS will require users of its site to go through a facial recognition process in order to access certain information, like account transcripts.



The account verification process will be handled by third-party identity verification company, and will require users to upload a photo ID. The photo ID will then be compared to a video that the user is prompted to take.



If the verification fails, the user can try to reach an employee, called a Trusted Referee, who will complete the process via a video call.



Critics of and the IRS’s new process

The IRS’s site promises that their partnership with is “bringing you an improved sign-in experience,” but consumer advocates and critics of’s handling of current government contracts believe otherwise.’s track record of handling ID verification currently has contracts with 27 states, which tasked the company with verifying residents’ identities so that they can gain access to benefits like unemployment. has acknowledged that 11,000 users were falsely flagged as fraudulent while the users attempted to sign up for its ID verification service. 


There have also been reports of users waiting weeks to get responses from, leaving them stranded without access to their VA and unemployment benefits.



The forgotten who are affected by the digital divide

As COVID has reminded us, the digital divide is, unfortunately, still alive.



Who’s more likely to be impacted by the IRS’s new policy?

  • People without cell phones
  • People with poor internet service that can’t handle video calls
  • People without access to a device that can take or make video calls



Proven privacy and security issues

Some people simply have privacy concerns, and rightfully so.’s own verification system, which it markets as a tool to help prevent fraud, is now being used to commit fraud and steal identities. 



Bloomberg recalls the story of a job seeker who, this past July, replied to a job recruiter’s ad that directed her to use’s identify verification service. She dutifully followed’s instructions by uploading documents and letting’s system scan images of her face. She would later find out that the recruiter was a group of criminals, who would ultimately steal her identity and apply for unemployment benefits in her name in California. When the unemployment claims were flagged as potentially fraudulent in California, her Florida unemployment benefits were suspended.



For weeks, she attempted to reach, but only received automated responses and ticket numbers. She was finally able to get things resolved. But, for many, using services like is not worth the risk of having your identity stolen or the trouble involved in reclaiming your identity.



Users have poor alternatives if they don’t want to use


Requesting IRS transcripts via a request page or on the phone

If users don’t want to, or are unable to provide video and photo verification to, they can request that their transcripts be mailed by calling the IRS’s automated line at 800-908-9946 or visiting the transcript request page on the IRS’s site.



The verification process on the IRS’s transcript request page is fairly straightforward and easy. The page asks the same questions as the IRS “Get My Payment” page that allows taxpayers to check the status of their COVID stimulus checks. Users would provide their full social security number, their date of birth, and the address used for their last tax return.



Taxpayers who request tax records via phone or a request page receive limited tax records, unlike verified users

There are downsides to requesting tax records through the alternative online system or via phone. When fully logged into your account, you can access over a decade’s worth of tax records. And, there are many more types of records that you can request. But, when using the IRS’s alternative online transcript request page, taxpayers only have access to tax records for the previous four years. 



The IRS is taking us back to 2010

In an IRS publication dated March 1, 2011, the IRS touts, “You can now get copies of your tax returns and transcripts online.” 



Requesting tax records online was to be a step up from requesting them on the phone. It was more convenient. The IRS’s current page, “Alternative to Requesting a Transcript Online” even states so. “We recommend requesting a transcript online, since that’s the fastest method. If you can’t get your transcript online, you can request one by mail instead.” the page says. 



While the IRS is taking one step forward with technology with its collaboration, it’s forcing many taxpayers to take two steps back to the days where their only choices to request their tax records was to reach the IRS by phone or via postal or snail mail.


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