The IRS is demanding Americans show their face to a private company to access their tax returns
A new kind of digital identification, requiring the user to submit their personal data to a private company in Virginia - including a live video of their face from their cell phone or computer webcam - will be the only way Americans can create an account with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) starting by the summer of 2022.
Old log-in credentials will stop working later this year, and the only way to log into irs.gov will be by using ID.me, an online identity verification service run by a company in McLean, Virginia, just outside the Capital Beltway. This is according to investigative journalist Brian Krebs, who went through the procedure of creating an account for himself this week.
"The service requires applicants to supply a great deal more information than typically requested for online verification schemes, such as scans of their driver's license or other government-issued ID, copies of utility or insurance bills, and details about their mobile phone service," Krebs wrote.
The phone verification requires a mobile or landline number, no voice-over-IP services like Skype. In Krebs's case, the verification process stalled, requiring a live chat - and a note he would have to wait for three and a half hours for someone to contact him.
Apparently, more than half of US states already use ID.me credentials to identify fraudulent benefits applications. The private company told Krebs it had around 64 million users, with "roughly 145,000" signing up every day.
Though his sign-up was not smooth, Krebs said getting an account of this kind "will probably be needed at some point to manage your relationship with the federal government and/or your state."
After his revelation was reported by the outlet ZeroHedge on Thursday, the story caught the ear of some members of Congress. "The IRS are now trying to require facial recognition to view your tax returns. This is America, not China," said Congressman Troy Nehls, a Texas Republican.
The tax authority is not the first government agency to steer citizens toward ID.me, though the Social Security Administration - another entity Americans are basically mandated to deal with - also allows the use of Login.gov, a government-provided identity service and ID.me's chief competitor.