IRS Logo
Print - Click this link to Print this page

Practitioner PIN Method for Forms 1040 and 4868 Modernized e-File (MeF)

IRS added Forms 1040, 4868, and 21 1040-related tax returns to the Modernized e-File platform in February 2010. The Practitioner PIN option for electronically signing Forms 1040 and 4868 through the MeF platform is provided below. The requirements for the Practitioner PIN are the same for both the current e-file system and the MeF system. However, there are slight differences in how information is transmitted or returned between the 2 platforms. "MeF info" is noted next to any question/answer that has MeF specific information.

The Practitioner PIN method is an additional signature method for taxpayers who use an Electronic Return Originator (ERO) to sign their return by entering a five-digit PIN.  The PIN can be any five digits except all zeros. 

Generally, a PIN is needed for each taxpayer when completing a married filing joint tax return. The Practitioner PIN method allows you to authorize the Electronic Return Originator to enter or generate your PIN. It is not necessary for taxpayers to provide their date of birth, prior year adjusted gross income or prior year PIN for authentication when using the Practitioner PIN method.


General Q&A's for Electronic Signature (PIN) Methods

IRS e-file Signature Authorization Questions (Forms 8878 & 8879)

Practitioner PIN for e-file

Who is eligible to use the Practitioner PIN method?

The following taxpayers are eligible to use the Practitioner PIN method:  

  • Taxpayers who are eligible to file Form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ or 1040SS(PR) for Tax Year 2013.
  • Military personnel residing overseas with APO/FPO addresses.
  • U.S. citizens and resident aliens residing in the American Possessions of the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam and Northern Mariana Islands, or with foreign country addresses.
  • Taxpayers filing a Form 4868 (Extension of Time to File).
  • Those filing on behalf of deceased taxpayers.

There is no age restriction on who can use the Practitioner PIN method; everyone is eligible to use the Practitioner PIN method providing they present the proper credentials to the Practitioner at the time of filing.

 Return to Top

What forms or supporting documents must the ERO submit with Form 8453, U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal for an IRS e-file Return?

The MeF platform allows for documents to be submitted electronically in PDF format. See Publication 4164 for more information.  For the tax year 2013, the 1040 MeF platform is supporting the following documents as an attachment to Form 8453, U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal for an IRS e-file Return:

  • Form 1098-C, Contributions of Motor Vehicles, Boats, and Airplanes
  • Form 2848, Power of Attorney
  • Form 3115, Application for Change in Accounting Method
  • Form 3468, Computation of Investment Credit
  • Form 4136, Credit for Federal Tax Paid on Fuels
  • Form 5713, International Boycott Report
  • Form 8283, Non-Cash Charitable Contributions, Section A (if any statement or qualified appraisal is required) or Section B, Donated Property, and any related attachments (including any qualified appraisal or partnership Form 8283)
  • Form 8332, Release of Claim to Exemption for Child of Divorced or Separated Parents
  • Form 8858, Information Return of U.S. Persons with Respect to Foreign Disregarded Entities
  • Form 8864, Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit
  • Form 8885, Health Coverage Tax Credit, and all required attachments
  • Form 8949, Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets, (or a statement with the same information, if you elect not to report your transactions electronically on Form 8949).

If the software allows for the Form 8283 to be scanned and attached to the electronic return, the Form 8453 does not have to be completed or mailed to IRS. If the software does not support attaching Form 8283 as a PDF file, Form 8453 may be completed and mailed to IRS. 

Return to Top

How long should an ERO retain and make available to the IRS the Form 8453?

All return information, including a copy of the Form 8453 and other documents that cannot be electronically transmitted are required to be retained until the end of the calendar year.

Return to Top

How does the Practitioner PIN method benefit the ERO?

The Practitioner PIN method offers an additional signature option for EROs to use in preparing and transmitting Form 1040 to IRS.  Neither the Date of Birth nor the Adjusted Gross Income amount or PIN is needed for Practitioner PIN returns. 

NOTE:  EROs are strongly encouraged to check the Acknowledgement File or review the information received from the transmitter to determine acceptance of the PIN.

Return to Top

Is there an authorization form required for filing Form 4868 using the Practitioner PIN method?

Yes.  Complete Form 8878, IRS e-file Signature Authorization for Form 4868 and Form 2350, for Form 4868 filed using the Practitioner PIN method.  Remember that a signature is only required on Form 4868 when there is an Electronic Funds Withdrawal.

Return to Top

What is my responsibility as an ERO using the Practitioner PIN method?

EROs are required to sign Form 8879, Part III, inputting their ERO EFIN/PIN for all returns using the Practitioner PIN method.  The ERO/EFIN PIN consist of eleven digits (the first six positions is the EFIN and the last five is any five digits except all zeros).  EROs should confirm the identity of taxpayers per Publication 1345 when completing Form 8879, before you transmit the return or release it for transmission to the IRS.

Return to Top

Do I mail Form 8879 or 8878, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, to the IRS?

No.  Do not mail Form 8879 or 8878 to IRS.  EROs using the Practitioner PIN method must retain completed Forms 8879 and 8878 for three years from the return due date or IRS received date, whichever is later.  Electronic storage is acceptable.  In addition, Form 8879 or 8878 should not be used as a transmittal to fax documents or submit payments to the IRS.

Return to Top


General Q&A's for Electronic Signature (PIN) Methods

Do I need any specific forms to use the Practitioner PIN Method?

Taxpayers must complete Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, for returns using the Practitioner PIN method.  Taxpayers can either enter their own PIN or authorize the ERO to enter their PIN for them when completing Form 8879. 

Return to Top

If the taxpayer uses a PIN and owes taxes, can they pay the balance due electronically?

Yes. Taxpayers who use a PIN may pay their balance due by Electronic Funds Withdrawal or credit card.

Return to Top

Are all taxpayers who file electronically and sign with a PIN required to pay any balance due electronically?

No.  Taxpayers who prefer to pay by check or money order should file Form 1040-V, Payment Voucher.  Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, should not be used to transmit any payments.

Return to Top

Is the PIN used by the taxpayer a Universal PIN?

No. It is used as the taxpayer's electronic signature on their Individual Income Tax Return only; however, taxpayers may also use it as a piece of authentication when signing their next year tax return using electronic signature.

Return to Top

Can the taxpayer use the same PIN next year?

Yes, or they may choose any 5 digits except all zeros.

Return to Top

What happens if two taxpayers select and use the same PIN to sign their return?

It is acceptable for two taxpayers to choose the same five digit PIN. The taxpayer's personal information provided to the IRS is used to verify the taxpayer's identity.  

Return to Top

Do both taxpayers filing a joint return need a PIN?

Yes, each taxpayer must sign using a PIN.  The taxpayers will choose any five digits except all zeros as the electronic signature. 

Return to Top

Can the taxpayer electronically file a joint return if the spouse is unable to sign because he or she is serving in a combat zone or a hazardous duty area, and the taxpayer does not have a power of attorney or other statement?

Yes, a joint return can be electronically filed without the spouse's electronic PIN signature if the spouse is unable to sign because he or she is serving in a combat zone or a qualified hazardous duty area, and the taxpayer does not have a power of attorney or other statement. 

Return to Top

How do I know the IRS received the taxpayer's PIN?

When you receive your Acknowledgement Record, all accepted returns will have the PIN Presence Indicator.  One of the following values will be returned:

  • "Practitioner PIN"
  • "Self-Select PIN" (Self-Select PIN by Practitioner Used)
  • "Online Filer PIN"

Return to Top

What is an ERO PIN?

The ERO PIN is the ERO's electronic signature.  For consistency, each ERO is encouraged to use the same 11 numbers for their PIN on all returns for this filing season. The first 6 positions of your ERO PIN must be your EFIN and it must match the EFIN in the SubmissionId. You may select any 5 digits, except all zeros, for the next five positions.  It does not take place of the taxpayer's PIN.  A taxpayer PIN is also required. 

Return to Top

Will the ERO PIN be validated?

If the ERO PIN is not present, the return will reject displaying the reject reason (business rule). 

Return to Top

Where can I find the Business Rules for the Practitioner PIN method?

The Schemas and Business Rules for Form 1040/4868 MeF web page lists this information by tax year.

Return to Top

Where can I find the MeF requirements for the Practitioner PIN method?

The MeF Practitioner PIN method requirements for software developers and transmitters can be found in Publication 4164, Modernized e-File (MeF) Guide for Software Developers and Transmitters.

Return to Top

If my client uses the Practitioner PIN method to sign their return, how is an election for certain tax treatment, status, exception or exemption based on an instruction for the tax form or in a related tax publication submitted?

If your client uses the Practitioner PIN method to sign their return, and is making an election for certain tax treatment, status, exception or exemption based on an instruction for the tax form or in a related tax publication, the General Dependency Medium must be used if there is no official form or XML schema designed for the election.  Practitioners should not attach a copy of the election to the Form 8453, U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal for an IRS e-file Return.  

Return to Top


IRS e-file Signature Authorization Questions (Forms 8878 & 8879)

What should I do if my client is unable to return to my office to input his/her PIN?

Your client may authorize you to input his/her PIN by completing Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization or Form 8878, IRS e-file Signature Authorization Application for Form 4868 and Form 2350.  Provide Form 8879/8878 to the taxpayer along with a copy of the completed tax return/document, in person, by U.S.mail, a private delivery service, e-mail, FAX transmission or an internet web site.  Instruct your client to review the tax return/tax document for accuracy and complete the Form 8879/8878 by providing the requested information (a five-digit PIN, pen and ink signature or acceptable electronic signature, and date).  If your client is unable to return the signed Form 8879/8878 to your office, he/she may return it to you by U.S. mail, private delivery service or FAX transmission. 

Return to Top

What is Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization?

Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, allows the tax professional to input the taxpayer's PIN. It is provided as a convenience for taxpayers who are unavailable to personally enter their PIN. It is also required for all returns signed using the Practitioner PIN method or when the ERO generated or assigned the taxpayers PIN.

Return to Top

Where can I obtain a copy of Form 8879?

Some tax preparation software includes Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization format. A copy can also be obtained from IRS website, keyword Form 8879.  A Spanish version, Form 8879-SP, is also available on the site.  

Return to Top

Must I use Form 8879 for every e-file return?

No. Form 8879 is only required when one or both taxpayers are unavailable to personally enter their PIN or when the ERO has generated or assigned the taxpayer's PIN.  However, it is required for all returns signed using the Practitioner PIN method.

Return to Top

Can the taxpayer give me their PIN verbally to enter in their electronic record?

Yes. A taxpayer may give you their PIN verbally; however, you must receive a completed Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, from the taxpayer before you transmit the return or release it for transmission to the IRS.

Return to Top

Is it acceptable for an ERO to enter the taxpayer's PIN in the electronic return format before Form 8879 is generated?

Yes, the taxpayer PIN can be entered into the electronic return format prior to generation of the Form 8879.  However, the ERO must receive a completed Form 8879 signed by the taxpayer before you transmit the return or release it for transmission to the IRS.

Return to Top

Is it acceptable for an ERO and/or software program to generate or assign the five digit PIN the taxpayer will use to sign his e-file return?

Yes, an ERO may determine the taxpayer's PIN if certain conditions are met.  In all instances, the taxpayer shall retain the right to select his or her own PIN.  If the taxpayer agrees to allow the ERO to determine the taxpayer PIN, the taxpayer will consent to the ERO's choice by completing and signing a Form 8879 which contains the taxpayer PIN used as the return signature.  The taxpayer PIN can be systemically generated or manually assigned by the ERO.

Return to Top

Is it acceptable for the ERO to choose the same PIN for multiple clients?

Yes, it is acceptable to assign the same PIN for multiple clients.

Return to Top

Can a married taxpayer filing a joint return pick the PIN and enter it for his/her spouse?

No. The taxpayer who is not present to personally enter their PIN must complete Form 8879 to authorize their tax professional to input the PIN for them.

Return to Top

Do both taxpayers filing a joint return have to authorize the tax professional to input their PINs?

No, only the taxpayer that is not present to sign the return should authorize the preparer to enter their PIN.  If neither spouse is present to sign a joint return, each can authorize the preparer to enter his/her respective PIN.  But a spouse who is present should enter his/her own PIN, even if the preparer has authorization to enter the other spouse's PIN.

Return to Top

What is my responsibility as a return preparer using Form 8879?

As a return preparer, your responsibility is to provide the taxpayer with Form 8879 along with their return for review. You are required to generate or enter the header information, tax return five line items in Part I, and the ERO firm name in Part II.  You may also systemically generate or manually assign the taxpayer's PIN in Part II.

Return to Top

What is my responsibility as an ERO using Form 8879 when the taxpayer completed their own return?

As an ERO, your responsibility is to complete Form 8879 based on the return information you received from the taxpayer.  You are required to generate or enter the header information, the five tax return line items in Part I, and the ERO firm name in Part II.  You may also system generate or manually assign the taxpayer PIN in Part II.

Return to Top

When does the taxpayer complete Form 8879?

If you prepared the return, the taxpayer must complete Form 8879 after they have reviewed the prepared return. If the taxpayer provided a completed return for transmission, the Form 8879 and PIN selection can be completed without reviewing the electronic return.  You must receive the completed Form 8879 from the taxpayer before you transmit the return or release it for transmission to the IRS.  Tax return line items in Part I must be entered on Form 8879 before the taxpayer signs.

Return to Top

Can a taxpayer complete Form 8879 and fax it to the ERO?

Yes. Form 8879 can be signed and returned to the ERO via fax transmission. However, the ERO must retain Form 8879 in their file for three years from the Return Due Date or IRS Received Date, whichever is later.  Form 8879 files can be retained electronically in accordance with Rev. Proc. 97-22, Retention of Book and Records.

Return to Top

Do I provide a copy of the completed Form 8879 to the taxpayer for their records?

Provide a copy of the completed Form 8879 for those taxpayers requesting one. You may provide a copy to other taxpayers, but you are not required to do so.

However, EROs will need to provide taxpayers with a copy of Form 8879 if the current year PIN is assigned or generated by the ERO.  The taxpayer may need the PIN when electronically signing their next year return. 

Return to Top

Can a preparer enter the taxpayer's PIN on an Application for Extension of Time to File?

Yes. Form 8878, IRS e-file Signature Authorization for Application for Form 4868 and Form 2350,  is available for taxpayers to authorize the ERO to input their PIN on Forms 4868 or 2350.  A copy can be obtained from IRS website, keyword Form 8878.  A Spanish version, Form 8878-SP, is also available on the website.   

 Return to Top

Do I have to mail Form 8879 and Form 8878 to the IRS?

No. Retain the completed Form 8879 and Form 8878 in your file for three years from the Return Due Date or IRS Received Date, whichever is later.  In addition, Form 8879 can not be used as a transmittal to fax documents or submit payments to IRS.

Return to Top

Is it acceptable for an Electronic Return Originator (ERO) to electronically image and store Form 8879 and Form 8878 and meet its document retention requirement?

Yes.  An ERO may electronically image and store Forms 8879 and 8878 if the EROs storage system satisfies the requirements of Rev. Proc. 97-22, Retention of Books and Records.  In brief, Rev. Proc. 97-22 requires that the electronic storage system must ensure an accurate and complete transfer of the hard copy or computerized records to an electronic storage media.  In addition, all records reproduced by the electronic storage system must exhibit a high degree of legibility and readability (including the taxpayer's signature) when displayed on a video display terminal and when reproduced in hard copy.

Return to Top

What should I do if my client is unable to return to my office to input his/her PIN on an Application for an Extension of Time to File?

Your client may authorize you to input his/her PIN by completing Form 8878.  Provide this form to the taxpayer along with a copy of the extension of time to file application for their review.  It is not necessary for both taxpayers e-filing a joint extension application to authorize the ERO to enter their taxpayer PIN.  See additional instructions on Form 8878.

Return to Top

Why is a Form 8878 needed for Form 4868 filers if there is no signature requirement on Form 4868?

A Form 8878 is required by Form 4868 filers when they will make an Electronic Funds Withdrawal and they want to authorize the ERO to enter the taxpayer's PIN.  Form 8878 is not required for Form 4868 when there is no Electronic Funds Withdrawal.

Return to Top

What are the acceptable electronic signature methods for Forms 8878 and 8879?

Currently, the acceptable electronic signature methods are:

  • A handwritten signature input onto an electronic signature pad;
  • A handwritten signature, mark, or command input on a display screen by means of a stylus device;
  • A digitized image of a handwritten signature that is attached to an electronic record;
  • A typed name (e.g., typed at the end of an electronic record or typed into a signature block on a website form by a signer);
  • A shared secret (e.g., a secret code, password or PIN) used by a person to sign the electronic record;
  • A digital signature; or
  • A mark captured as a scalable graphic.

Return to Top

In electronic signatures for Forms 8878 and 8879, is an ERO required to identify and authenticate the taxpayer?

Yes. For remote transactions, the ERO must record the name, social security number, address, and date of birth. Verify that the name, social security number, address, date of birth, and other personal information on record are consistent with the information provided through record checks with the applicable agency or institution or through credit bureaus or similar databases.

Yes. For in-person transactions, the ERO must inspect the government picture identification, compare the picture to the applicant, and record the name, social security number, address, and date of birth. Verify that the name, social security number, address, date of birth, and other personal information on record are consistent with the information provided through record checks with the applicable agency or institution or through credit bureaus or similar databases. For in-person transactions, the record checks with the applicable agency or institution or through credit bureaus or similar databases are optional.  If there is a multi-year business relationship, you should identify and authenticate the taxpayer.

Return to Top

In remote transactions concerning electronic signatures for Forms 8878 and 8879, what does the ERO do if the taxpayer fails to successfully complete the identity verification after three attempts?

The ERO must obtain a handwritten signature.

Return to Top

In electronic signatures for Forms 8878 and 8879, what information does the ERO retain?

The ERO must provide the following information upon request:

  • Digital image of the signed form;
  • Date and time of the signature;
  • Taxpayer's computer IP address (Remote transactions only);
  • Taxpayer's login identification - user name (Remote transactions only);
  • Identity verification: taxpayer's knowledge based authentication passed results and for in-person transactions, confirmation that the government picture identification has been verified; and
  • Method used to sign the record, (e.g. typed name), or a system log, or other audit trail that reflects the completion of the electronic signature process by the signer.

Return to Top

In electronic signatures for Forms 8878 and 8879, how will the ERO access the electronic signature information and other identifying information?

The ERO's software must provide the information to the ERO in an accessible format (including print capability).

Return to Top

Please contact e-help desk at (866) 255-0654 if you have any questions about the information on this page.

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 19-Mar-2014