IRS Adds Option That Lets Taxpayers Skip Facial Recognition

After facing backlash, the agency will let people verify their identity during a live, virtual interview.

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The Internal Revenue Service on Monday said it has enabled a new option that allows taxpayers to sign up for online accounts with the agency without the use of any biometric data, including facial recognition. The move comes after backlash over the agency's decision to use of ID.me's facial recognition services to verify identities on the IRS website. 

Taxpayers will still need to use ID.me to register for an online IRS account. But instead of uploading a "video selfie" as part of the registration process, people will have the option to verify their identity "during a live, virtual interview" with ID.me agents, according to the IRS. The interview option doesn't use facial recognition, and no biometric data is required.  

The interview verification option takes about five to 10 minutes, plus wait time to speak with the next available agent, according to ID.me's website. People will need to show some documents and answer "a few questions" to verify their identity.

People can still use biometric verification through ID.me's self-assistance tool if they choose, according to the IRS.

The IRS had announced in November that everyone who wants to use IRS services online -- including viewing and making payments online and updating a mailing address -- would need to register through ID.me. Older IRS accounts were expected to be forced to transition to ID.me by summer 2022. Earlier this year, several lawmakers raised concerns about ID.me's use of facial recognition technology, citing privacy concerns. Following the pushback, the IRS said earlier this month it would transition away from using third-party facial recognition to help authentic accounts.

The IRS described the new option as a "short-term solution" in places for this year's tax filing season. The agency said it will work to roll out Login.Gov, an existing government account system used by USAJobs and the US Small Business Administration, with the goal of introducing the option after the 2022 filing deadline.

For people that still opt to verify their account with biometric data, the IRS said on Monday that "new requirements are in place to ensure images provided by taxpayers are deleted for the account being created." Any collected biometric data from taxpayers who already created an IRS online account will be deleted over the course of the "next few weeks," according to the IRS.

The IRS didn't respond to a request for additional information.