How Can I Get My IRS PIN From Last Year's Taxes?

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When you e-file your tax return, an IRS PIN takes the place of your pen and ink signature, and verifies your identity to the IRS. However, due to attempted hackings, the IRS no longer issues PINs. That being said, you can still self-select a PIN and, in some cases, get an IRS-issued Identity Protected PIN. A self-selected PIN is a five digit number of your choosing. An IP PIN is a six digit number. It would have been issued to you by the IRS if you reported to them, or if they determined that you were a victim of identity theft. You can also get one by opting in to receive one, or if you live in Florida, Georgia or the District of Columbia and participated in their pilot program.


  • If you have lost your IRS PIN number, it may be possible to retrieve it using the IRS's online PIN recovery tool. However, if you can't recover your PIN, you should still file your taxes using a mail-in return.

IRS PIN Retrieval Is Possible

If your IRS PIN number is lost and it was a self-selected PIN, you can still e-file by using last year’s adjusted gross income to verify your identity to the IRS. You can find your AGI on line 37 of Form 1040, line 21 of Form 1040-A and line 4 of Form 1040-EZ. If you are a first time filer and are over 16 your AGI is zero. If you didn’t keep a copy of last year’s return or it’s not handy, check with your tax preparer or look at the software you used to prepare your return. If none of these options are available, you can request an electronic or mailed transcript.

Go to the IRS’s website and search for "Get Transcript." To get it online click on "Get Transcript Online." Fill in your Social Security number, birth date, filing status and the mailing address you used on last year’s return. For verification purposes you’ll also have to provide a cell phone number that has your name on the account, and an account number from a credit card, mortgage, car loan, home equity loan or line of credit. After you’ve entered all this, follow the prompts and you’ll be able to view, download and print your transcript. You’ll also be given a username and password so that you can go back and access the transcript again if need be.

To have a transcript mailed, you enter a lot less information but you have to wait a lot longer to get it. Go to "Get Transcript by Mail" and fill in your Social Security number, date of birth and the mailing address that was on your last return. Then follow the prompts. Mailed transcripts will arrive at the address that was on your last return in five to 10 calendar days. You can also request a mailed transcript by calling the IRS at 800-908-9946.

IRS PIN recovery is possible if the lost PIN was an IP PIN. You can use the IRS’s online tool, "Get an Identity Protection PIN," to retrieve it. You’ll need your Social Security number, filing status and address from your last return. You’ll also need an account number from a credit card, mortgage, car loan, home equity loan or line of credit. Last, you must have an email address and a cell phone with your name on it. Once you’ve entered all of this information, you can follow the prompts to get your IP PIN. The reason for the cell phone requirement is that they text you an activation code. If you don’t have a cell phone with your name on the account, the IRS will mail the activation code.

If you’re unable to get your IP PIN online you can get it reissued by calling the IRS at 800-908-4490. This line is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. your local time. If you live in Alaska or Hawaii use Pacific Time. When you request an IP PIN by phone, they mail it to the address on your last tax return within 21 days.

IRS PIN Retrieval Exceptions

If you’ve moved since you filed your last tax return or it’s later than Oct. 14, and you haven’t yet filed for the current or last year, you cannot use a PIN to file. Any PIN. So don’t spend your time working on IRS PIN recovery. You have to go the old paper and ink route, and mail your return.

Also do not try to e-file without a PIN. The IRS will reject your return and tell you to file by mail. When they receive your mailed return it will undergo more scrutiny than if you had just mailed it in the first place. If you have a refund coming, it could be a long wait.

Security Changes for 2018

The IRS is trying to reassure taxpayers that they’re taking steps to secure their information and that it’s safe to e-file. They notify you if they receive duplicate filings under your Social Security number. They’ve also published Form 14039 for you to use if your e-filing is rejected because someone already filed a return with your Social Security number on it. A fillable version of this form is available on their website. After you’ve filled it out, you have to print it and attach it to your paper return. When the IRS receives the paper return, they’ll do an investigation to identify which return is fraudulent and they will process the legitimate one. Yes, this takes a long time.

Security Changes for 2017

Cyber attacks led to the IRS changing their PIN system beginning with the 2017 tax year. But if you used a self-selected PIN for your 2016 filing and still have it, you can use it again to e-file for 2017. The only other type of PIN that works for the 2017 tax year is an IP PIN that was given to you by the IRS.


About the Author

LeDona Withaar has over 20 years’ experience as a securities industry professional and finance manager. She was an auditor for the National Association of Securities Dealers, a compliance manager for UNX, Inc. and a securities compliance specialist at Capital Group. She has an MBA from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts and a BA from Mills College in Oakland, California. She has done volunteer work in corporate development for nonprofit organizations such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She currently owns and operates her own small business in addition to writing for business and financial publications such as Budgeting the Nest, Zacks and PocketSense.

Photo Credits

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