IRS is phasing out facial scan requirement to biometrically verify taxpayers

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will gradually phase out the use of facial recognition and biometric identity verification system from a third-party vendor. Amazon was providing the Rekognition technology which powered the ID.me platform for biometric authentication of American taxpayers.

The American Taxpayer will no longer have to subject themselves to a facial scan while working on their taxes through the IRS website. The IRS had mandated that US citizens must upload video selfies when creating new IRS online accounts. The system, called ID.me, utilized Amazon's Rekognition technology. The Treasury Department last year signed a two-year contract, amounting to $86 million, to deploy and maintain ID.me software.

In an official announcement, the IRS noted it will "transition away from using a third-party service for facial recognition to help authenticate people creating new online accounts". The transition will occur over the "coming weeks" in order to "prevent larger disruptions to taxpayers during filing season". During the transition, the IRS will "quickly develop and bring online an additional authentication process that does not involve facial recognition".

It is important to note that the IRS wasn't demanding ID.me verification for filing tax returns. However, taxpayers had to subject themselves to a facial scan if they wanted to access other services. These included accessing account information, applying for payment plans online, requesting transcripts, and the Child Tax Credit Update Portal. Needless to mention, many taxpayers would need to access at least some of the services, and to do so, had to offer a selfie.

The controversial process involves uploading a photo of an official government-provided ID (such as a license or passport) along with a video selfie. These are subsequently compared against each other to verify the user's identity.

As the IRS has mentioned, it will be coming up with other techniques to verify the identity of US taxpayers. There is, however, no clear information about the technologies the agency might employ.

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