Signing an Electronic Tax Return

As with an income tax return submitted to the IRS on paper, the taxpayer and paid preparer (if applicable) must sign an electronic income tax return. Taxpayers must sign individual income tax returns electronically. There are currently two methods for signing individual income tax returns electronically (see Electronic Signature Methods, below).

Taxpayers must sign and date the Declaration of Taxpayer to authorize the origination of the electronic submission of the return to the IRS prior to the transmission of the return to IRS. The Declaration of Taxpayer includes the taxpayer’s declaration under penalties of perjury that the return is true, correct and complete, as well as the taxpayers’ Consent to Disclosure. The Consent to Disclosure authorizes the IRS to disclose information to the taxpayers’ Providers. Taxpayers authorize Intermediate Service Providers, Transmitters and EROs to receive from the IRS an acknowledgement of receipt or reason for rejection of the electronic return, an indication of any refund offset, the reason for any delay in processing the return or refund and the date of the refund.

Taxpayers must sign a new declaration if the electronic return data on individual income tax returns is changed after taxpayers signed the Declaration of Taxpayer and the amounts differ by more than either $50 to "Total income" or "AGI," or $14 to "Total tax," "Federal income tax withheld," "Refund" or "Amount you owe."

Electronic Signature Methods

There are two methods of signing individual income tax returns with an electronic signature available for use by taxpayers. Both methods allow taxpayers to use a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to sign the return and the Declaration of Taxpayer.

Self-Select PIN is one of these methods. The Self-Select PIN method requires taxpayers to provide their prior year Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount or prior year PIN for use by the IRS to authenticate the taxpayers. EROs should encourage taxpayers who do not have their original prior AGI or PIN to call IRS Tax Help at (800) 829-1040.

This method may be completely paperless if the taxpayers enter their own PINs directly into the electronic return record using key strokes after reviewing the completed return. Taxpayers may also authorize EROs to enter PINs on their behalf, in which case the taxpayers must review and sign a completed signature authorization form after reviewing the return. Also see IRS e-file Signature Authorization below.

Practitioner PIN is the other method and it does not require the taxpayer to provide their prior year AGI amount or prior year PIN. When using the Practitioner PIN method, taxpayers must always appropriately sign a completed signature authorization form (see IRS e-file Signature Authorization below). Taxpayers, who use the Practitioner PIN method and enter their own PINs in the electronic return record using key strokes after reviewing the completed return, must still appropriately sign the signature authorization form.

Regardless of the method of electronic signature used, taxpayers may enter their own PINs; EROs may select and enter the taxpayers’ PINs; or the software may generate the taxpayers’ PINs; in the electronic return. After reviewing the return, the taxpayers must agree by signing an IRS e-file signature authorization containing the PIN.

The following taxpayers are ineligible to sign individual income tax returns with an electronic signature using the Self-Select PIN:

  • Primary taxpayers under age sixteen who have never filed; and
  • Secondary taxpayers under the age sixteen who did not file the prior tax year.

EROs should advise taxpayers to keep a copy of their completed tax return to assist with authentication in the subsequent year.

IRS e-file Signature Authorization

When taxpayers are unable to enter their PIN directly in the electronic return, taxpayers authorize the ERO to enter their PINs in the electronic return record by signing the appropriate completed IRS e-file signature authorization form. IRS e-file Signature Authorization">Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, authorizes an ERO to enter the taxpayers’ PINs on Individual Income Tax Returns and IRS e-file Authorization for Application of Extension of Time to File">Form 8878, IRS e-file Authorization for Application of Extension of Time to File, authorizes an ERO to enter the taxpayers’ PINs on Forms 4868 and 2350.

The ERO may enter the taxpayers’ PINs in the electronic return record before the taxpayers sign Form 8879 or 8878, but the taxpayers must sign and date the appropriate form before the ERO originates the electronic submission of the return. After completing either Form 8879 or Form 8878, the ERO must give it to the taxpayer for review. This can be done in person or by using the U.S. mail, a private delivery service, fax, email or an Internet website. The taxpayer must sign and date the Form 8879 or Form 8878 after reviewing the return and ensuring the tax return information on the form matches the information on the return. The taxpayer may return the completed Form 8879 or Form 8878 to the ERO by hand delivery, U.S. mail, private delivery service, fax, email or an Internet website.

EROs may use an electronic signature pad to have taxpayers sign Forms 8879 and 8878 . Taxpayers must be present in the ERO's office where the electronic signature pad is located to sign using the signature pad. The ERO must retain the forms with the taxpayers' signatures and provide a copy to the taxpayer upon request.

Only taxpayers who provide a completed tax return to an ERO for electronic filing may complete the IRS e-file Signature Authorization without reviewing the return originated by the ERO. The ERO must enter the line items from the paper return on the applicable Form 8879 or Form 8878 prior to the taxpayers signing and dating the form. The ERO may use these pre-signed authorizations as authority to input the taxpayer's PIN only if the information on the electronic version of the tax return agrees with the entries from the paper return.

Taxpayers and the ERO representative must always complete and sign Form 8879 or Form 8878 for the Practitioner PIN method of electronic signature.

Electronic Signatures for EROs

EROs must also sign with a PIN. EROs should use the same PINs for the entire tax year. The ERO may manually input or the software can generate the PIN in the electronic record in the location designated for the ERO Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN)/PIN. The ERO is attesting to the ERO Declaration by entering a PIN in the ERO EFIN/PIN field. For returns prepared by the ERO firm, return preparers are declaring under the penalties of perjury that they reviewed the returns and they are true, correct and complete.

EROs may authorize members of their firms or designated employees to sign for them, but the EROs are still responsible for all the electronic returns originated by their firms.

For returns prepared by other than the ERO firm that originates the electronic submission, the ERO attests that the return preparer signed the copy of the return and that the electronic return contains tax information identical to that contained in the paper return. The ERO must enter the return preparer’s identifying information (name, address, EIN, when applicable and PTIN) in the electronic return.

EROs may sign Forms 8879 and 8878 by rubber stamp, mechanical device (such as signature pen) or computer software program as described in Notice 2007-79. The signature must include either a facsimile of the individual ERO’s signature or of the ERO’s printed name. EROs using one of these alternative means are personally responsible for affixing their signatures to returns or requests for extension. This does not alter the requirement that taxpayers must sign Form 8879 and Form 8878 by handwritten signature. The ERO must retain Forms 8879 and 8878 for three years from the return due date or the IRS received date, whichever is later. EROs must not send Forms 8879 and 8878 to the IRS unless the IRS requests they do so.

Once signed, an ERO must originate the electronic submission of a return as soon as possible. EROs must not electronically file individual income tax returns prior to receiving Forms W-2, W-2G or 1099-R. If the taxpayer is unable to secure and provide a correct Form W-2, W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings, or 1099-R, Distributions from Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc., the ERO may electronically file the return after the taxpayer completes Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement or 1099-R, Distributions from Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc., in accordance with the use of that form. If Form 4852 is used, the non-standard W-2 indicator must be included in the record, and the ERO must maintain Form 4852 in the same manner required for Forms W-2, W-2G and 1099-R.

An ERO must ensure that stockpiling of returns does not occur at its offices. Stockpiling is:

  • collecting returns from taxpayers or from another Authorized IRS e-file Provider prior to official acceptance in IRS e-file; or
  • after official acceptance to participate in IRS e-file, stockpiling refers to waiting more than three calendar days to submit the return to the IRS once the ERO has all necessary information for origination

The IRS does not consider returns held prior to the date that it accepts transmission of electronic returns stockpiled. This includes when the IRS is not able to accept specific returns, forms, or schedules until a date later than the start-up of IRS e-file due to constraints such as late legislation, programming issues, etc.  EROs must advise taxpayers that it cannot transmit returns to the IRS until the date the IRS accepts transmission of electronic returns.

As required in the 2012 schemas, Internet Protocol (IP) information of the computer the ERO uses to prepare the return (or originate the electronic submission of collected returns) must be included in all individual income tax returns. The required Internet Protocol information includes:

  • Public/routable IP address
  • IP date
  • IP time
  • IP time zone

With many different ERO e-filing business models, the computer used to prepare (or originate the electronic submission of collected returns) may not have a public/routable IP address. If the computer used for preparation (or origination of the electronic submission of collected returns) is on an internal reserved IP network, then the IP address should be the public/routable IP address of the computer used to submit the return. If the computer used for preparation (or origination of the electronic submission of collected returns) is used to transmit the return to the IRS, then the IP address should be the public/routable IP address of that computer. If it is not possible to capture the public/routable IP address, then the ERO or software may have to hard code the IP address into each return.

The IRS will reject individual income tax returns e-filed without the required IP address. Any return received by the IRS containing a private/non-routable IP address will be flagged in the Acknowledgement File with an “R” in the Reserved IP Address Code field of the ACK key record indicating that a reserved IP address is present for the return.

For 94X series - How do I sign my return?

A five (5) digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) is used to sign Forms 94x (944, 941 & 944) e-file returns for the Reporting Agent clients, which is assigned to the Reporting Agent when an e-file Application is approved.

Note: The Reporting Agent must have signature authority on record with IRS for all returns they file for their clients.

A 10 digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) is used to sign 94x (944, 941, & 940) OnLine e-file returns filed through Commercial Off the Shelf Software (COTS). The PIN is assigned to the IRS Authorized Signer when the 94x OnLine PIN Registration Process is completed and approved.

IRS Authorized Signatories are only allowed to file and sign their own returns, using their PIN. They are only allowed to file four (4) quarters for Forms 941, one (1) return if filing Form 944 and one (1) Form 940 yearly. An IRS Authorized Signer can not use their PIN to sign returns for other people and cannot file bulk returns.

CALT does not provide legal advice. Any information provided on this website is not intended to be a substitute for legal services from a competent professional. CALT's work is supported by fee-based seminars and generous private gifts. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the material contained on this website do not necessarily reflect the views of Iowa State University.

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