The State of Alabama now lets you file your taxes by way of a selfie. I have so many questions rolling around in my head about this. But the big one I have to ask, is how secure is this? The State indicates that it costs them over $400 million annually just on fraud cases alone. So it’s interesting to see how they are trying to remedy that. Now, that is a lot of money, so my second question is – will this actually work? And how will it be enforced, if there is an issue? Does the State use records like drivers licenses to verify the information? Or do they take your word for it?
I’d like to first start with the possible security issues. First off – have you all seen the facial recognition security feature on the new Samsung S8? What it allows you to do is scan your face as a way to unlock your phone. Instead of punching in a password, or using your thumb print. In theory, your face is unique enough that it should recognize you. Right? Well, in theory. What this article (and video) showed was that you could take a picture of yourself, and then use that to unlock your phone. So, could someone take a picture of you, and then use it to file your taxes?
You’re probably thinking, that’s ridiculous, but let’s think about an elderly parent who might have dementia. Maybe one of that person’s kids is helping them with their taxes. And maybe they’re not being completely honest about the filing in order to get a bigger refund, or avoid having to pay taxes. Is that such a far fetched scenario? I mean, you hear about parents being taken advantage of all the time. Which is horrible, but I know that it happens. So is there a way to protect against, or prevent these kinds of things from happening?
Further, how does the State know that it’s you? What if your appearance is completely altered suddenly. I don’t want to get into a lot of scenario’s here, but what if you don’t look the same? What information are they basing your image on? If it’s DMV records, for example, how often do you have to get a new photo taken? In Ontario, where I live, it’s every 5 years. And I can tell you, that while you can still tell it’s me in that photo, I don’t look anything like that person. So how do you verify these things?
As I say in almost all of my posts. I love where this is going, and maybe this is the new way of filing certain forms with the government. But maybe taxes isn’t the place that they should be starting. But on the other hand, will this cut down on the amount of fraud out there, and ultimately save hundreds of millions in wasted money just because people are trying to avoid paying their taxes. As a government employee (but not for the State of Alabama)I can understand the balance between needing to follow the rules and having common sense. Unfortunately, we don’t always have that luxury. But if this saves $350 million a year for the state, I say good for them. Maybe this will transform the way we do business, ultimately cutting down on identity theft and fraud.