IRS Leader Explains Why the IRS Went to ID.me 

Nora Carol Photography/Getty Images

The agency needs to be able to identity proof online users at a certain level to be able to offer a full menu of online services, Rettig told lawmakers.

The IRS’ ability to offer an array of online services to Americans is contingent upon the agency’s ability to feel confident the people logging on to its online services are who they claim to be, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig told lawmakers at a Tuesday hearing in front of a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Identity proofing users is something the agency has struggled to do for years. It recently faced public scrutiny from lawmakers and digital privacy advocates over using facial recognition provided by digital identity company ID.me to verify identities. 

In February, the IRS announced it would offer options other than facial recognition and would work to add the General Services Administration's Login.gov service after the 2022 tax filing season.

At the same time, the tax agency faces a paper backlog of tax returns and correspondence that Rettig has vowed to get “healthy” by the end of the year. The agency’s ability to offer services via call centers has also plummeted: employees manning the phone lines are the same ones in charge of the paper backlog, Rettig said. But the IRS faces pressure to increase the number of services it offers to Americans via online accounts.

Erin Collins, the national taxpayer advocate, urged the IRS to expand the services Americans can find via online IRS accounts in a blog last week, writing that “online service offerings are even more important for taxpayers as the IRS continues to deal with processing disruptions, low levels of telephone service, delays in correspondence, and limited options for walk-in assistance—currently taxpayers simply do not have many viable options for offline service.”

The agency is “about five years from, I think, being what the agency should be in terms of the ability of the folks who want to just interact with us online, to do everything with us online, with the exception of filing a return,” said Rettig. “It could be a little more. It depends upon the funding that we get. It depends upon the technologies that develop.”

The IRS’ ability to expand and maintain online services, though, will also depend on its ability to do identity proofing.  

Standards laid out by the National Institute of Standards and Technology outline different “identity assurance levels” that align with “the degree of confidence that the applicant’s claimed identity is their real identity,” according to NIST.

“Once I know this is you, that is your account, I can open up a whole list of services that you can do automatically online,” said Rettig. “When that authentication level might be different, we have to pull back because of the levels of fraud that we encounter.”

“We’re up against nation-states,” he continued. “We get about 1.8 billion cyberattacks per year, and so to protect the data that people trust us with, we have to be at a higher authentication level or not have so many options available.”

Rettig said the agency turned to ID.me’s services because the IRS’ old system struggled to authenticate legitimate users.

“The system we had before had about a 40% authentication rate… About 60% were not getting into the systems and had to walk into the site or had to call, which when we are on our heels from an inventory perspective is not a meaningful thing for the people in this country,” said Rettig. 

ID.me’s authentication rate is “far in excess of 70%,” and its facial recognition option is offered in eight languages. Other ID.me options are offered in over 30 languages, said Rettig. 

GSA’s Login.gov, which the IRS is currently looking to add as an option, can currently handle “less than 30 transactions per second,” said Rettig. “We need more than about 1,500 transactions per second.”

The IRS is also in need of identity assurance level 2 (IAL2) as defined by NIST, Rettig said, and is working with GSA to increase Login.gov’s assurance level and transaction rate. Login.gov’s website currently states that it “continues to work toward achieving certification of compliance with NIST’S IAL2 standard from a third-party assessment organization.”

In a March 2 letter to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Rettig wrote that the IRS needs Login.gov to reach certain data security standards, as well as offer live support and multilingual customer service options, have capacity for IRS needs and “meet other security, fraud and data protection requirements.”

Rettig told lawmakers Tuesday that “if [Login.gov gets] to the point, we’ve already indicated that we would shift.”

“These are some of the many difficult choices we have to make,” said Rettig. “Because I think collectively, we all want the person who’s capable of going online to be able to do 100% of their interactions with the IRS online seamlessly.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.