The IRS announced this week that e-Services users will need to re-authenticate their account. The move is part of an initiative to strengthen the security of the agency’s online services, but it involves a very prescriptive and somewhat confusing process.

E-Services is an essential tool for tax preparers, yet it was unavailable for much of the last filing season due to cyber-attacks and phishing scams. While the re-authentication process is a measure to prevent a repeat of this situation, the new process is confusing because it spans many different communication mediums—postal letters, cell phones, online portals, and the IRS call center. In addition, it requires that tax preparers have access to a considerable amount of data to verify their identity. Preparers who don’t complete this process could find themselves locked out of their accounts—which would be disastrous during busy season.

From November 28 through the end of December, the IRS will mail letters via the United States Postal Service to affected e-Services users notifying them that they must validate their identity with the IRS (letters will be sent to the address that was on each user’s latest tax return).

But who is affected? Affected users are essentially active users—anyone who can access the transcript delivery service and who has utilized their e-Services account within the past year.

If you receive a letter, you’ll have 30 days to authenticate your account, so take action immediately by choosing one of the following options:

1. Register for Get Transcript Online

a. To use this option, the IRS states that you must have all of the following:

i. An email address

ii. Knowledge of your most recently filed tax return

iii. Financial information from either a credit card or other loan numbers

iv. A mobile phone in your name in order to complete the process in one session (it is possible to surpass this requirement, if you request an activation code by mail)

b. However, if you registered for Get Transcript Online after May 2016, the IRS is stating that you do not need to take any further action. Get Transcript Online registrants have already been authenticated through the Secure Access feature of the system

2. Call the IRS e-Services Help Desk

a. To use this option, have a copy of the IRS letter with you, as a unique code within the letter will be needed for the call

To register for Get Transcript Online, here’s a how-to from the IRS.

If you fail to authenticate your e-Services account within 30 days of receiving the letter, you’ll be locked out of your account and will need to contact the Help Desk. Have feedback on the re-authentication process? Share your comments below!

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