Since the IRS opened its two new online portals for people to register for the child tax credit, many have had their efforts dampened by a burdensome identification process.
A third-party company, ID.me has partnered with the IRS in order to verify people’s identities before they can even access the portals. Primary documents for verification like a passport or driver’s license are required, along with a facial scan done through your smartphone.
For some, the process has been fairly straightforward, but for others with little access to technology and verification issues, it could mean leaving much-needed money on the table.
I personally spent over a week trying to tackle the issues with identity verification through ID.me to try and log onto the portal and manage our tax credit. Apparently, my facial scan and passport were not enough to verify my identity, so ID.me requested some sort of document with my full social security number displayed on it. The only option that seemed feasible was a pay stub via my payroll provider, ADP – which wasn’t able to help me, explaining that the IRS does not allow payroll companies to display full social security numbers on any paystubs. Perhaps there was another way to circumvent this cycle, but I couldn’t find a way out of the loop. My family and I had to contact my HR department, HR had to check with ADP, then we had to personally contact ADP and request a customized document they would draft up for us displaying my full social security number and verifying my employment and income.
Rebecca Thompson, Director of Networks for Prosperity Now spoke exclusively to GOBankingRates on how these and other issues have affected her clients. Prosperity Now is a national nonprofit intermediary that works to ensure that all individual families and communities can prosper without exception and achieve wealth.
The child tax credit offered through the American Rescue Plan is projected to lift millions of American children out of poverty — but IRS-induced barriers to entry stand to prevent many from ever accessing the money.
“Taxes are a critical component of our country’s economic system. They also represent an opportune moment for low-to-moderate-income households and people of color to leverage the tax system and access those credits and benefits that are available to them and that they’re eligible for to improve their overall household financial stability and well-being,” Thompson said, highlighting the importance of easy access to the benefit.
“From our perspective, we can help people once they get in and access their accounts. We can help them — it’s the getting into the account part that presents the largest barrier,” she added.
Prosperity Now offers advice and guidance on tax services and offers many of their services free of charge to taxpayers. They are in regular contact with the IRS and offer recommendations to the agency for how it can improve access for all taxpayers to its systems.
Thompson stated that phone identification is a little-used option for people to verify their identities. “The IRS promised to make phone verification options available for people. I think it’s rather buried,” she said.
However, the only number we found where taxpayers can contact the IRS to verify their identity is (800) 830-5084, but this is for those who have received letters requesting they do so for suspected fraud.
Thompson stated that “we have also asked [the IRS] to make in-person verifications an option for people as well. That’s something that they’re working through, and is particularly important for low-income filers to have those in-person options available.”
In-person verification methods could benefit those who do not have readily available access to cell phones or computers. Those who are not as technologically savvy could also benefit from in-person verification.
Speaking on in-person verification, Thompson said, “I think it’s a matter of who and how and where it should be done — of whether it should be done through the IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers, of which there are fewer now than there were 10 or 15 years ago. In some instances, if you go with taxpayer assistance centers, it’s still going to present a barrier because not everyone has access to a center, particularly in rural communities.”
“[The IRS has] to find another means of in-person verification and I think that’s something in the works – we have put that request into them before but I haven’t heard anything as of late as to whether or not they will provide in-person verification options – but that is definitely a recommendation,” he added.
As for recommendations on what people can do if they are still unable to verify their identity online through ID.me for the child tax credit, Thompson provided that “Form 8822 is still an option for people to update their information with the IRS.”
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This story was updated July 20, 2021 to include the author’s personal experiences with ID.Me.