Get Transcript: 2015 Third Party Access Questions and Answers
Note: Please see also the current FAQs on Get Transcript.
Q. How does the Get Transcript authentication process work for people setting up accounts?
A. The IRS uses a multi-step process to check identities. The first part involves submitting personal information about the taxpayer, including Social Security number, date of birth, tax filing status and street address. The second step involves using “out of wallet” questions, an industry standard used by financial institutions. These questions are based on information that only the taxpayer should know, such as the amount of their car payment or other personal information. There are multiple questions that must be answered correctly before the process can be completed.
Q. Were these accounts accessed using data obtained from the IRS?
A. Third parties obtained information from sources outside the IRS. This sensitive personal information was used to try accessing the Get Transcript application; third parties did not gain access to the core IRS system or tax accounts maintained within it.
Q. What is the IRS doing to protect taxpayers affected by this?
A. The IRS is taking several steps, including marking the accounts of affected taxpayers on our core tax account system to protect them against identity theft if someone else tries to file a tax return in their name, both right now and in 2016. The IRS is also sending letters to affected taxpayers with additional information, and offering credit monitoring to those whose transcript information was accessed.
Q. Are other IRS systems affected by security issues?
A. The IRS emphasizes this issue involves one online application involving transcripts — it does not impact other IRS systems, such as our core tax filing system, nor does it impact other applications, such as Where’s My Refund.
Q. What should people do to protect themselves?
A. Identity theft is just one of many reasons why people should think twice before posting publicly personal or financial information on social media or the Internet. People should also make sure their computers are up to date with the latest security software.
Q. Where can people get more information?
A. Taxpayers who are victims of identity theft can get additional information on IRS.gov, including instructions in our Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft, as well as our Fact Sheet: Identity Theft Information for Taxpayers and Victims.
Q. What is transcript information used for?
A. This information is used for a variety of useful financial activities, including verification of income for such things as mortgages and student loans.
Q. What kind of information is available through Get Transcript?
A. The information varies depending on what is requested. The information requested can include account transactions, line-by-line tax return information and income reported to the IRS.
- Tax Return Transcript. A return transcript shows most line items from your tax return just as you filed it, and also includes forms and schedules you filed. However, it does not reflect changes made to the return after you filed it. In most cases, your return transcript will have all the information a lender or other agency needs to validate your income or tax reporting compliance.
- Tax Account Transcript. This transcript shows any adjustments made by you or the IRS after you filed your return. It shows basic data, like marital status, type of return, adjusted gross income and taxable income.
- Record of Account Transcript. This combines the information from both the tax account and tax return transcripts.
- Wage and Income Transcript. This shows data from information returns reported to the IRS, such as W-2s, 1099s and 1098s. Current tax year information may not be complete until July.
- Verification of Non-filing Letter. This is proof from the IRS that you didn’t file a return this year. Current year requests aren’t available until after June 15. This letter doesn’t address whether you, the taxpayer, are required to file a tax return for a given tax year. A taxpayer may fail to file a tax return even though he/she is required to do so.
Q. How many copies of Get Transcript are ordered each year?
A. About 23 million taxpayers used the online Get Transcript application this past filing season. The affected accounts are a small fraction of these — 610,000 total attempts to gain access to the IRS.gov online system, with about 330,000 of those attempts successfully getting through verification measures.
Q. I didn’t get a letter. Should I be concerned about the security of my tax information?
A. Protecting taxpayer data is a top priority for the IRS. This incident was isolated to one of our online applications; it did not involve our core system where taxpayer accounts are housed. We do not believe that general taxpayer information is jeopardized by this incident beyond those affected taxpayers’ transcript accounts.
Q. Should I call to find out if I’m receiving a letter?
A. The IRS advises not calling. Phone lines remain extremely busy due to staffing limitations, and phone assistors will not have access to additional information. Affected taxpayers will be receiving a letter directly advising them about the attempted or successful unauthorized access to their transcript and how to activate the protections we are offering them.
Q. How do I know the letter is actually from the IRS and not someone else?
A. Taxpayers can contact the IRS if they are unsure of the letter. The IRS emphasizes to taxpayers that in a notification letter like this, it will not request the taxpayer sensitive personal information such as Social Security numbers or credit card or financial information.
- August Additional IRS Statement on the "Get Transcript" Incident
- May IRS Statement on the "Get Transcript" Application
- Written Testimony of Commissioner Koskinen on Unauthorized Attempts to Access Taxpayer Data before Senate Finance Committee