Backlash fueled by concerns over biased facial recognition technology and technical issues is building against new IRS policy requiring taxpayers to log in with ID.me, a third-party biometric technology provider, to access services tax.
Taxpayers who wish to receive the child tax credit or transcripts must now upload a selfie to ID.me to log in. use new accounts verified through ID.me.
Some taxpayers who have previously used the ID.me system have encountered problems uploading selfies, and privacy advocates are stepping up their protests against the IRS’ use of the software.
Meanwhile, amid criticism that facial recognition technology can often be racially biased, the Treasury Department appears to be considering the IRS’ use of ID.me software entirely.
In response to a query from TechTarget, the IRS pointed to a January 28 Bloomberg report indicating that the agency and the Treasury Department were researching alternatives to ID.me.
Additionally, in a prepared statement, the IRS said taxpayers can still make tax payments from a bank account, credit card, or other means without having to use tax technology. facial recognition or sign up for an IRS account.
Protests and criticism are on the rise
Despite a previous statement from ID.me that it uses the least prone to bias face matching, one-to-one face matching as opposed to one-to-many face matching, the seller revealed in a recent blog post that he actually used the controversial one-to-many system as the last internal verification step to prevent fraud.
Privacy advocates and civil rights activists have also started a petition calling on the IRS not to use facial recognition login systems for tax purposes..
While the criticism appears to be getting the attention of the IRS, some doubt the agency will reverse the decision to require taxpayers to provide the government with images of their faces.
“It’s basically a bureaucrat making a decision, and sometimes they get stubborn, and they’ll just push and push,” said Ernest Tomkiewicz, a chartered accountant in Cambridge, Mass., adding that the IRS decision could lead other government agencies to start requiring facial recognition for their services.
Meanwhile, Tomkiewicz said his older, tech-savvy clients are deeply suspicious of the selfie system for fear of personal data and identity theft and have decided not to file their taxes online this season. tax. He said he expects young customers to file their taxes at the last minute and prolong the need to log into ID.me as long as possible.
Multiple face scans
For many taxpayers, the user-friendliness of the ID.me site is also problematic.
Jennifer Stedman, a 45-year-old woman from Madison, Wisconsin, said that while she had used ID.me in the past for other services, buying to use it to get information and apply for the Child Tax Credit was different.
She said she had to scan her face multiple times because the photo taken by the system did not match the photo ID she submitted.
“It was quite confusing,” Stedman said. “It didn’t work right away. He would say ‘you didn’t do your scan right or something.’”
And then, about two weeks after going through the ID.me process and scanning her face, when she went back to verify her account, it made her start the process all over again.
“After doing it once, I thought I wouldn’t have to do it again,” she added.
In an indication that logging into IRS accounts with ID.me can be difficult, the biometric ID provider’s CEO earlier this week responded to several tweets from Twitter users claiming they had tried to log into their accounts for hours.
Alternatives to facial recognition
Whether or not the Treasury Department reconsiders using ID.me, the main issue is getting the fraud under control, said James Lewis, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
He said that while using facial recognition with ID.me is one way to do it, there may be other better methods.
“[The IRS] could have rushed into the deal with ID.me faster than they wanted,” he continued. “They cannot continue to allow tax evasion to grow and therefore they need a solution and better identification of taxpayers within this framework.”
Whatever system the IRS eventually settles on will have to use biometric recognition or better credentials, he said.
“We need something that’s convenient for taxpayers and can work online, and that points to some sort of digital solution, like facial recognition.”
fear of technology
Lewis argued that fears surrounding facial recognition were unfounded and that people needed to be told how the technology works.
“There have always been issues with people being afraid of the effects of using biometric IDs and we need to reduce that fear because every other developed country in the world is using it and we are falling behind,” said- he declared.
While it’s possible to skip the ID.me verification process and file taxes on paper, Tomkiewicz said the IRS generally scrutinizes paper returns more because there’s more chance of errors.
In 2020, about 195.2 million returns and forms were filed online, representing 81.3% of all filings, according to the IRS.
Worsening of a backlog
Last month, the IRS urged taxpayers to exercise “extra caution” to avoid late refunds this season and said taxpayers “should file electronically with direct deposit if possible; filing a paper tax return this year means an extended repayment period.”
At the same time, the agency is burdened with a backlog of 10 million unprocessed returns from last year, a problem largely caused by budget constraints and a lack of staff to divert resources to process stimulus payments during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a 2001 report to Congress by the National Taxpayers’ Advocate.
Tomkiewicz said he anticipates the IRS will struggle to resolve issues related to taxpayers being required to log in with ID.me to access their tax accounts.
“It’s a bit ambitious to do this when they still have…old tax returns and correspondence,” he said. “It’s going to cause a bit of a backlog and… some hard feelings because they’re going to figure out that they can get things done quickly and it doesn’t just happen.”