New Tool to Protect Your Tax Return and Refund

California just opted into an IRS pilot program to fight against identity theft

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There's a new tool you can use in the fight against identity theft. It's a six digit number called an IP PIN that you use to tell the IRS your tax return was filed by you.

"We have to start protecting ourselves more in the digital age," said Ena Reese of Liberty Tax Service. "It's like the IP PIN is sort of an extra lock. Once it's unlocked then the tax return goes through the normal channels."

IRS spokesperson Raphael Tulino said the IP PIN is a form of two-factor authentication.

"It is a rigorous procedure, with a number of security procedures to get through it, but it does help people," Tulino said. "It helps the IRS identify that you are you and it’s not a fraudulent return or refund going out the door."

If a return is filed without your PIN, the IRS freezes the return and starts the verification process. This is the first year the PIN is available to members of the public, but the system has been around for years.

"If you were a victim of identity theft in the past we would give you a PIN and that PIN you would use on your return," Tulino said. "Now we’re taking it and using it as a volunteer opt-in program to help prevent identity theft."

Tax professionals are saying that everyone should consider signing up for the program.

"It's a preemptive strike. I suggest you go ahead and grab that PIN because it can't hurt to be a little more careful," Reese said.

If you sign up for the program you will get a new PIN every year to help keep your information secure. "It gives an extra layer of protection for you as a taxpayer," Tulino said.

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