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. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Memorandum M-07-16, Safeguarding Against and Responding to the Breach of Personally Identifiable Information (PDF), which requires agencies to reduce the use of SSNs where practical.
  2. OMB Circular A-130, Managing Information as a Strategic Resource (PDF), which specifies responsibilities for managing personally identifiable information.
  3. OMB Memorandum M-17-12, Preparing for and Responding to a Breach of personally identifiable information (PII) (PDF), which sets forth the policy for Federal agencies to prepare for and respond to a breach of PII.
  4. House Resolution (H.R.) 624, 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 Social Security numbers

Progress on IRS systems, forms, notices and letters
We have made significant strides in eliminating or reducing the use of SSNs within our systems, notices, forms and letters where the collection or use of the SSN was not necessary.

Full SSN not used on 54 million outgoing notices annually
We have masked the SSNs on 110 outgoing non-payment and four outgoing payment notices mailed to taxpayers.  54 million notices were sent to taxpayers in FY2018.

Full SSN not used on 1.8 million Automated Collection System letters
We masked SSNs on numerous taxpayer sensitive, collection and enforcement-related letters. SSNs were completely removed on 1.8 million collections notices in FY2018.

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.