You have a personal identification number (PIN) for your computer, your bank card and probably your cellphone. Now you can get a six-digit PIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to help guard against identity theft when you file your taxes.

The PIN is an extra layer of security that will protect you if a fraudster who has obtained your Social Security number tries to file a bogus tax return in your name in order to get a refund from the federal government. If this happens, it’s likely that your refund will be delayed while you prove to the IRS that it wasn’t you who filed the false return.

Ideally, scammers won’t be able to get both your PIN and your Social Security number. You’ll get a new PIN every year.

How to get a PIN

If you have been stung by identity theft, the IRS may have already assigned you a PIN for the 2020 tax year. If that’s the case, you’ll be sent a CP01A notice, which has your PIN at the top of the first column on page one. The form also has instructions on how to use the PIN.

If you have reported identity theft to the IRS and didn’t get a PIN, the agency may not have finished investigating your case, or you may have moved before the end of the last year and didn’t notify the agency.

If you haven’t been assigned a PIN, you can request one by using the agency’s “Get an IP PIN” tool, as long as you have a Social Security number or a taxpayer identification number. If, however, your annual income is $72,000 or less and you don’t have internet access, you can still get a PIN by filing Form 15227 (Application for an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number).

You may also get an in-person meeting at a Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC), which are available in some locations by appointment.

Whether you ask for a PIN online or in person, you’ll also have to verify your identity. You’ll need:

  • An email address
  • A Social Security or taxpayer identification number and your filing status
  • Your mailing address
  • One financial account number linked to your name. For example, you can use the last eight numbers of a credit card, provided it’s not an American Express, debit or corporate card. You can also use the account number of a student loan, a mortgage, a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit, as well as an auto loan.
  • A mobile phone number linked to your name

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How to use your PIN

The PIN can be used only on federal tax forms 1040, 1040-SR, 1040-NR and 1040-PR/SS. (There’s a box marked “Identity Protection PIN” next to where you sign your return.) You’ll also need to use your PIN if you’re filing previous years’ tax returns. You won’t need the PIN if you’re asking for an automatic extension, filing an amended return or filing state taxes.

If you file your taxes electronically, your tax software will prompt you for your PIN. If you’re filing jointly and both of you have a PIN, you’ll both have to enter your PIN — and if you have a dependent with a PIN, you’ll need to enter that, too. If you have a tax preparer or use a volunteer tax preparer, you’ll have to give them your PIN.

Keep your PIN in a safe place. If you have a PIN assigned to you and don’t put it on your tax form, the IRS will reject your return. If you lose your PIN, you can go to the IRS “Get an Identity Protection PIN” site, or you can call the IRS at 800-908-4490, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time. A representative will verify your identity and mail your IP PIN to you within 21 days.


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