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IRS will soon require a selfie to access some of its online tools and applications

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You will soon be required to provide a selfie to a third-party identity verification company to access certain tools and applications on IRS.gov.

Starting in summer 2022, if you need to login to the IRS's website to access the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, get your tax transcript or view a payment agreement with the agency, you will need to create an account with third-party identity verification company ID.me.

A simple username and password will no longer suffice: You will need to provide a government document with a photo, such as a driver's license, state ID or passport, and take a video selfie with your smartphone or computer.

If you already have an IRS account, it will work until the summer, and then you will be required to create an account with ID.me.

An IRS spokesperson says this will not be a requirement to actually file your tax return, contrary to some other reports. You will still be able to make payments via a credit card or your bank account without logging in.

"The IRS emphasizes taxpayers can pay or file their taxes without submitting a selfie or other information to a third-party identity verification company," the agency said in a statement. "Tax payments can be made from a bank account, by credit card or by other means without the use of facial recognition technology or registering for an account."

But you will need an account to do some of the basic things listed above, as well as applying for payment plans, monitoring stimulus checks and requesting Identity Protection PINs. And a November 2021 press release says more applications will transition to the ID.me verification method over the next year. The IRS is already prompting users to create an ID.me account "as soon as possible."

IRS.gov

ID.me says it uses a form of facial verification that compares the photo ID provided by the taxpayer with a video selfie taken when prompted by the company's software, similar to unlocking a smartphone with your face.

The company launched in 2010 and is also used by other governmental agencies, including the Social Security Administration, Veteran's Affairs and many state governments, to verify unemployment benefits. ID.me was also used by the IRS in 2021 for those who enrolled or unenrolled in the advance child tax credit payments.

The change is meant to prevent fraud and make the login process easier, but many users have reported issues using the service, including their unemployment benefits being delayed for months during the Covid-19 pandemic because they could not get their identity verified. Facial recognition software, in general, is contentious due to privacy concerns and possible racial discrimination.

If the online verification process does not work, ID.me says users will need to verify their identities over a video call with an ID.me employee, called a Trusted Referee.

There are many reasons taxpayers may not want to use ID.me, including if they do not have the necessary documents or do not want to provide photos of themselves to the company. In that case, an "alternative options" link on the IRS's site leads to a page about requesting tax transcripts by mail.

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