What are we doing to protect taxpayer privacy?


The IRS' Social Security Number Elimination and Reduction Program

In an effort to protect citizens from identity theft, the Internal Revenue Service is working to identify ways to authenticate taxpayers without the full use of their Social Security number.

The requirement to minimize the use of SSNs is based on the following criteria:

  1.  OMB Circular A-130, Managing Information as a Strategic Resource PDF, Managing Information as a Strategic Resource, which specifies responsibilities for managing personally identifiable information.


  2. OMB Memorandum M-17-12, Preparing for and Responding to a Breach of personally identifiable information (PII) PDF, Preparing for and Responding to a Breach of Personally Identifiable Information (PII), which sets forth the policy for Federal agencies to prepare for and respond to a breach of PII.


  3. Public Law 115-59, Social Security Number Fraud Prevention Act of 2017, which restricts the inclusion of social security account numbers on federal documents sent by mail unless the head of the agency determines that the inclusion of the SSN is necessary.

IRS strategies to reduce the use of SSNs

The IRS's Social Security Number Elimination and Reduction (SSN ER) Program has made significant strides in eliminating or reducing the use of SSNs in our systems, forms, notices and letters where the collection or use of the SSN is unnecessary. Efforts include masking and removing SSNs.

IRS Masked Social Security Number

A masked SSN is an alternative to using the complete SSN, IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), or IRS Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN). The masked SSN displays only the last four digits of an individual’s identifying number and is shown in the format XXX-XX-1234 or ***-**-1234.

IRS masked and/or removed SSNs on numerous taxpayer-sensitive collection and enforcement-related notices and letters.

  • SSN masked on 96.1 million outgoing notices
    IRS masked the SSNs on 126 notices mailed to taxpayers. 64 million notices were sent to taxpayers in FY2021. 
  • SSN removed on 1.2 million Automated Collection System letters
    SSNs were completely removed on 1.2 million collection letters in FY2021.