IRS Fully Reliant on Social Security Numbers

On the Policy, Practice & Procedures page of their website, the IRS addresses the public’s concern regarding Social Security numbers on checks:

Complete Social Security Numbers (SSN) on Checks or Money Orders Remitted to IRS

Issue: Tax Professionals and clients have concerns about taxpayers putting their full SSN on checks remitted to IRS in payment of a balance due. Page 74 of the Form 1040 instructions directs taxpayers to put their full SSN on checks.

Response: The SSN Elimination and Reduction program is presently working on mid-to-long-term solutions to address the use of SSNs on checks remitted to IRS in payment of a balance due. To ensure payments are posted to the correct account, we encourage taxpayers to include their SSNs on checks and money orders submitted to the IRS. IRS processes millions of returns and payments each year, including many from taxpayers with the same or similar names. If you are concerned about providing the SSN, you may consider using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System. EFTPS is a secure alternative to mailing a check.”

Essentially, if you want to be sure that you’re properly credited for any money paid to the IRS, and avoid being labeled a tax evader, you don’t have much of a choice about including your Social Security number on checks and money orders.

The IRS sent 201 million notices to taxpayers during the fiscal year 2009, and most of those mailings included Social Security numbers. Social Security numbers may also appear in more than 500 computers systems and 6,000 internal and external forms. According to the Treasury Department Inspector General, “this is because Social Security numbers are used to associate correspondence and documents with taxpayer accounts.”

The IRS is currently in the process of reviewing their current reliance on Social Security numbers as primary account numbers for all citizens. Some have suggested that we may eventually switch to barcodes, but if this transition ever does take place, it isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

At present, the IRS, along with many other government agencies and corporations, relies on Social Security numbers and will do so for years to come. This continued reliance will inevitably result in additional data breaches and therefore, more stolen identities.

Identity theft can happen to anyone. McAfee Identity Protection offers proactive identity surveillance, lost wallet protection, and alerts when suspicious activity is detected on your accounts. McAfee Identity Protection puts victims first, providing live access to fraud resolution agents who work with victims to help restore their identities. For additional tips, please visit

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert. See him discuss IRS related identity theft on Fox News.

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