Feb 21, 2022 - Technology

IRS will let taxpayers skip facial recognition

IRS 1040 Individual Income Tax form for the 2019 tax year
IRS 1040 individual income yax form for the 2019 tax year. Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The IRS said Monday it will let taxpayers verify their identity through live, virtual interviews with agents — allowing people to avoid providing their biometric data to the agency.

Why it matters: The IRS' initial decision to use facial recognition software sparked significant backlash from critics who said that without proper guardrails, information collected for a seemingly benign purpose could easily be reused in other ways.

  • In response to the backlash, earlier this month the agency announced it "transition away" from using a third party company, ID.me, to collect taxpayers' documents and video selfies to authenticate their identities.

The big picture: While taxpayers will still be able to use ID.me to verify their identities with biometric data if they choose to, new requirements have been put in place to ensure these images are later deleted, per the press release.

  • Taxpayers who opt for the virtual interviews will be able to authenticate their identities without providing any biometric data.
  • The IRS said this was a "short-term solution" for the 2022 filing period, and that it plans to roll out an entirely new authentication system next year.
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