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The IRS Is Allowing Taxpayers To Opt Out Of Facial Recognition To Verify Accounts

A close-up of the IRS building's sign outside that reads "United States. Internal Revenue Service Building."
The IRS says taxpayers will be able to access their accounts by undergoing a virtual interview rather than have to submit a selfie.
(Jim Watson
AFP via Getty Images)
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The Internal Revenue Service says it's giving taxpayers with individual accounts a new option to verify their identity: a live virtual interview with tax agents.

This comes after the IRS backed away from a planned program to require account holders to verify their ID by submitting a selfie to a private company, a proposal that drew criticism from both parties in Congress and from privacy advocates.

The agency says account holders can still choose the selfie option, administered by ID.Me. But if they'd rather not, the agency says 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 IRS announced the new option on Monday. It says that ID.Me will destroy any selfie already submitted to the company, and that those selfies now on file will also be permanently deleted "over the course of the next few weeks."

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The agency calls this a short-term solution for the current tax filing season. It says it's working with the government on using another service, called Login.Gov, which is used by other federal agencies as a way to access their services.

The General Services Administration is currently working with the IRS to achieve the security standards and scale required of Login.Gov, the IRS said, "with the goal of moving toward introducing this option after the 2022 filing deadline."

The controversy over the use of ID.Me came on top of myriad other challenges facing the IRS this year, including a backlog of millions of unprocessed returns from last year, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as inadequate staffing and funding levels.

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