The IRS Warns You Not to File Without Doing This First

This important step can help you avoid any problems with fraud and theft.

From losing your wallet to accidentally throwing away important documents without shredding them first, there are a number of ways you can get your identity stolen—putting you at risk of tax identity theft from con artists. And it may be more common than you realize. According to American Family Insurance, this type of identity theft affects more than a million people in the U.S. every year and the risk rises significantly in February and March. Thankfully, you can make your chances of getting hit much lower. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warns that you should do one thing before filing in 2022 that will help prevent you from becoming a victim of tax identity theft. Read on to find out what step you need to take before doing your taxes.

RELATED: The IRS Just Warned Taxpayers to Never Take This Deduction.

The IRS says you should get an Identity Protection Pin before filing your taxes.

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On Feb. 16, the IRS posted a new "Tax Time Guide," advising taxpayers on some crucial things they should know about filing their returns in 2022. According to the new alert, the tax agency is warning that you should get an Identity Protection Pin (IP PIN) before you file.

"An Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) is a six-digit number that prevents criminals from filing a fraudulent tax return using another taxpayer's Social Security number," the IRS explained. "The IP PIN is known only to the taxpayer and the IRS, and helps the IRS verify the taxpayer's identity when they file their electronic or paper tax return."

Most people have to apply for the IP PIN.

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The IRS will mail a CP01A notice to confirmed victims of tax-related identity theft, which includes their new IP PIN. But you don't have to already been targeted in the past to get one of your own. "If you don't already have an IP PIN, you may get an IP PIN as a proactive step to protect yourself from tax-related identity theft," the IRS explains on its website.

According to the tax agency, the easiest way to apply for a PIN number is online through the "Get an IP PIN" tool. But taxpayers looking to request this way must pass a rigorous identity verification process. If you can't successfully validate your identity online but still want a pin, the IRS does note that there are alternative application methods.

You can file a paper application for an IP PIN, as well as request an in-person authentication. Taxpayers who made below $73,000 as an individual or $146,000 as a married couple will likely have to utilize these other methods. "Please note using an alternative method to the online tool takes longer for an IP PIN to be assigned to you," the IRS said.

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You have to get a new pin every year.

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If you've had an IP PIN in the past, you will still have to get a new one before filing this year. According to the IRS, your number is only valid for one calendar year, so a new one is generated for your account each tax season. The IP PIN tool to apply for a new number is "generally available starting mid-January through mid-November," the tax agency says.

The IRS will mail victims of identity theft their new IP PIN every year, but for everyone else, your current IP PIN will be available when you log back into the "Get an IP PIN" tool. "If we assigned you an IP PIN, you must use it to confirm your identity on any return filed during the current calendar year. This includes current year returns as well as any delinquent tax returns," the tax agency explains on its website.

If you have been issued an IP PIN, you have to use it correctly when filing.

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You will be prompted to use your IP PIN at certain points when filing, either by your tax software or by the tax professional preparing your return. "Correct IP PINs must be entered on electronic and paper tax returns to avoid rejections and delays. An incorrect or missing IP PIN will result in the rejection of your e-filed return or a delay of your paper return until it can be verified," the IRS says.

If you have lost or forgotten your pin number, you'll need to obtain it before you can file your return. You can do this through the agency's online IP PIN tool but you may have to verify your identity again. The IRS says you can also call "for specialized assistance" to have it reissued, if you're unable to retrieve your number online. "An assistor will verify your identity and mail your IP PIN to your address of record within 21 days," the tax agency says.

RELATED: The IRS Is Warning You Not to Do This in 2022.

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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