IRS.Gov Website Gets a Facelift
September 1st, 2017, the IRS rolled out an updated irs.gov. I admit that after using the old irs.gov for so long that my first impression was that the IRS made a mistake. A bit of poking around the site changed my mind. I think the new site is going to be helpful to taxpayers over the long run. The site is now mobile friendly, making information more accessible everywhere. The old irs.gov website had a cluttered appearance which was a bit overwhelming to taxpayers. Now the interface is more streamlined, hopefully making it easier for taxpayers to obtain access to personal information and account information.
With the upgrade, the new irs.gov website is optimized for all devices, mobile or desktop. Mobile devices are becoming the new way to access information and handle your personal affairs, so I guess even the IRS had to bend to the trend. There is even an app for your mobile devices: irs2go! Ok, so I am a tax nerd but honestly how can you not like an an app to check on refunds, tax payments and account balances. Of course, the app increases the risk of sensitive information falling into the wrong hands but overall I think taxpayers want and appreciate easier access to their account information.
The new irs.gov website groups content into topics that are most relevant to taxpayers. When you land on the homepage you will see the menu bar, which shows: File, Pay, Refunds, Credits & Deductions, and Forms & Instructions. You can hover your mouse over the tab or click on the option you desire and you will see additional options to address your questions.
I normally represent taxpayers who owe the IRS so I clicked on the Pay option to test out the new site. I liked what I found. The Pay webpage includes information on how to pay your tax debt, what options are available if the taxpayer cannot fully pay, and a tool to access a taxpayer’s account balance. The page is simple and clean, a god-send for taxpayers who are often bewildered by the whole experience of dealing with the IRS. If you click on File or Refund, you will find a similar set up.
Secure Access to Taxpayer Information
The new irs.gov provides taxpayers with improved access to information. You can check on the status of a refund, track your tax payments, get updated account balances, and obtain tax transcripts. The updated interface makes it easy to find these options under the new tab system. The IRS is understandably leery of allowing unfettered access because of identity theft. To gain access you need the following:
- Social Security number
- Date of birth
- Filing status and mailing address from latest tax return
- Access to your email account
- Personal account number from a credit card, mortgage, home equity loan, home equity line of credit or car loan
- A mobile phone with your name on the account
Obviously, such access (and the need to provide sensitive data) raises the risk of identity theft and data breaches. Taxpayers are demanding a more responsive IRS and this is a way to deal with it. Let’s hope the IRS has tools in place to identify any attempts to illegally access this information.
Overall, I like the new website. The new site is much more user-friendly for taxpayers and indeed tax professionals like myself. I am concerned about the security of taxpayer information but cautiously optimistic that the IRS has taken steps to reduce identity theft or hacking. Time will tell.