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IRS’s “Get Transcript Online” Program to Enter Beta Testing Soon
In line with the IRS’s Future State goal of broadening online customer service options, the IRS recently announced that new authentication and access measures for Get Transcript will soon enter beta testing. This announcement comes almost one full year after Get Transcript was taken offline due to reports that the program was compromised by identity thieves. Get Transcript provides taxpayers with online access to tax transcripts. Initially conceived as a quick and easily accessible means of getting line-by-line, tax-related information, the most obvious advantage is that users don’t have to file a Form 4506 just to see the data they provided to the IRS, and transcripts can be helpful to 1040 clients who you’ve asked to complete an organizer prior to preparing their return. Unfortunately, criminals gained access to taxpayer-specific information via Get Transcript, which precipitated the shutdown in May 2015. Essentially, identity thieves used stolen taxpayer information to gain access to tax records; this data was likely used to file fraudulent returns and receive improperly-issued refund checks. The data required to access the program included victims’ Social Security information, date of birth, and home address, as well as what the IRS described as a “multi-layer process … [requiring thieves] correctly answer several personal identity verification questions.” Initially reported as roughly 200,000 affected accounts – fifty percent of which were successfully accessed by identity thieves – another 390,000 accounts were reported to have exhibited “suspicious activity” by August 2015. To address the security breach, the IRS shut down the program and offered affected taxpayers credit monitoring services and an Identity Protection (IP) PIN. Aside from setting back the IRS’s plans for expanding online taxpayer services, more than a quarter million taxpayers had to deal with the difficulties faced by victims of identity theft. The announcement can be seen as more than the relaunching of a program that needed to improve security. It could be a step forward for taxpayer convenience and an expansion of IRS online services. Hopefully, the beta test will yield positive results that lead to improving security for similar programs. The IRS will randomly select Get Transcript page visitors for the beta test. Only those who have been chosen will be able to see the Get Transcript Online option. If you are not selected for the beta test, then you will need to submit a request by mail.