The IRS announced on Monday it’s dropping plans to use the controversial ID.me facial recognition software to identify taxpayers seeking access to their online accounts. In 2021, the IRS came under heavy scrutiny when they granted ID.me an $86 million contract to secure taxpayer’s data on the agency’s website.
Many taxpayers reported frustrations as they were required to take video selfies to verify their identity. In addition to the technology issues, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle criticized the changes after concerns about the collection of sensitive biometric data.
The IRS stated it would slowly transition away from using ID.me or any other third-party service over the next few months in order to avoid any disruptions to the current tax filing season. As previously shared, the backlog of prior year tax returns, staffing shortages, and compounding tax changes from prior years have already created a challenging tax-filing season for the IRS.
The IRS is working to create a new verification process that would not require a facial scan, and stated that this would not affect a taxpayer’s ability to file a tax return.
Since the contract was granted to ID.me, lobby groups have raised concerns about face mapping technology, claiming that it would be an invasion of privacy. The choice to use ID.me scan technology becomes even more puzzling in light of login.gov, a verification system already supported and used by millions of taxpayers.
Ron Wyden, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, spoke on the matter, saying, “I have long argued that Americans should not have to sacrifice their privacy for security.” A group of republicans shared similar concerns last week in a letter to the IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.
Although this appears to be a step in the right direction, more work is needed to secure taxpayer privacy. Currently, the Social Security Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and other agencies have existing contracts with ID.me, something that many advocates have called to end.
Caitlin Seeley George, a campaign director for digital freedom group Fight for the Future, stated, “No one should be coerced into handing over their sensitive biometric information to the government in order to access essential services.”
Earlier this week, Blake Hall, the CEO of ID.me, was responding to questions and concerns via LinkedIn and Twitter. Initially he and the company were defending their technology, stating, “Data shows that removing this control would immediately lead to significant identity theft and organized crime.” After several days of comments, it appears that they have backtracked on some of their prior statements.
On Thursday, the verification company said that anyone who has created an account can clear their selfie data beginning March 1. Going forward, ID.me will not require government sites to use the selfie step.
When the ID.me system was in place, taxpayers were required to take a video scan of their face so face-mapping technology could match it with a verified photo ID. If that step did not verify the taxpayer, users could then verify themselves through a video chat with a live agent. Going forward, the video chat option may become the immediate option.
Although the IRS has stated that removing this system would have no effect on their ability to process tax returns, history has shown that significant changes to the IRS website, the tax code, or any other process required by the IRS will lead to extended processing times for many tax returns.
The most effective way to combat extended processing times is to file your return on time with all your information complete. If you have all your tax documents in order, click below to schedule your tax preparation meeting.
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