June 23, 2016
As a precautionary step to protect taxpayers, the Internal Revenue Service today announced that the electronic filing PIN tool is no longer available on IRS.gov or by toll-free phone following additional questionable activity.
The e-File PIN serves as an alternative signature verification method on the Form 1040 series and helps assist with electronic filing of tax returns. Most taxpayers do not need an e-File PIN to file electronically, they can use their prior-year adjusted gross income from copies of their prior year tax returns. For those who do not have a copy of their tax return, they may use Get Transcript to obtain a copy which will display the adjusted gross income.
In February, the IRS announced that cybercriminals using taxpayer data stolen elsewhere and an automated bot attack program accessed more than 100,000 e-File PINs through the tool. The tool only reveals the PIN. It does not reveal any taxpayer data. Criminals used taxpayers’ names, addresses, filing status, dates of birth and Social Security Numbers which they obtained from other sources to access the e-File PIN.
The IRS retained the tool at that time because links are embedded in almost all commercial tax software products that helped taxpayers file their returns. However, additional defenses were added inside the IRS processing systems for protection, including extra scrutiny for any return with an e-File PIN.
Recently, the IRS observed additional automated attacks taking place at an increasing frequency, but only affecting a small number of e-File PINs. We were able to identify this issue because of additional defenses put in place earlier this year, and backend protections remain in place. However, the IRS decided to remove the e-File PIN program as a safety measure.
Prior to this, the IRS had been working with industry to assess elimination of the e-File PIN later this year.
The IRS notes that the change only affects a smaller segment of taxpayers who have not filed their tax returns this year and need a replacement e-File PIN. The IRS continues to work with the tax software community to make this change as smooth as possible for affected taxpayers.