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IRS lets taxpayers bypass facial recognition with virtual interviews

The temporary solution will be in effect through the 2022 tax filing season

US taxpayers will no longer need to use facial recognition or any other form of biometric authenticationjavascript:void(0) to access their online Internal Revenue Service (IRS) accounts, the agency announced on Monday.

Instead, taxpayers will have the option of verifying their identity through a live, virtual interview conducted by a tax agent. 

The new option comes on the heels of IRS backtracking on its decision to mandate facial recognition through external identity verification firm ID.me, which raised privacy concerns among taxpayers, lawmakers, and advocacy groups.

"The IRS takes taxpayer privacy and security seriously, and we understand the concerns that have been raised," said Chuck Rettig, IRS commissioner. 

"Everyone should feel comfortable with how their personal information is secured, and we are quickly pursuing short-term options that do not involve facial recognition."

However, the IRS noted that taxpayers will still be able to verify their identity using the self-assistance tool provided by ID.me, if desired.

For security reasons, all images provided during biometric verification will be deleted following account creation. The IRS will also permanently delete any biometric data gathered from taxpayers with existing accounts in the next few weeks.

Furthermore, the IRS announced that while it plans to use the short-term virtual interview solution for the current filing season, it intends to implement Login.Gov as an authentication tool in the future

A partnership between General Services Administration (GSA) and the IRS is underway to meet the standards and scale required of Login.Gov, which is slated to launch after the 2022 filing deadline.

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