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Self-Select 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 requirements for the Self-Select 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 Self-Select PIN Method is one option for taxpayers to use when signing their electronic tax return. The PIN is any five numbers (except all zeros) the taxpayer chooses to enter as their electronic signature. A PIN is needed for each taxpayer if filing through an Electronic Return Originator (ERO), or using Tax Preparation Software; the taxpayer Date of Birth and Prior Year Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) or Prior Year PIN from the original return must also be entered for authentication.

Most taxpayers are eligible to use the Self-Select PIN Method. 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 taxpayer. For Filing Season 2013, the Internal Revenue Service will continue its new web-based application called, "Electronic Filing PIN Help". This application will provide taxpayers with an IRS generated PIN to be used when they cannot locate their Prior Year AGI or Prior Year PIN. 

If the taxpayer agrees, it is acceptable for an ERO and/or software program to generate or assign the taxpayer PIN. The taxpayer consents to the ERO’s choice by completing and signing an IRS e-file signature authorization containing the intended taxpayer PIN. The taxpayer PIN can be systemically generated or manually assigned into the electronic format and/or the signature authorization form. However, the ERO must receive the signature authorization signed by taxpayer(s) before they transmit the return or release it for transmission to the IRS.

 


 

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

 


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

 


Who is eligible to use the PIN to sign their return?

The following taxpayers are eligible to use the Self-Select PIN method for 1040 MeF:

  • Taxpayers who are eligible to file Form 1040 for Tax Year 2012.
  • Taxpayers who did not file for Tax Year 2011, but have filed previously.
  • Taxpayers who are age 16 or older on or before December 31, 2012, who have never filed a tax return.
  • Primary Taxpayers under age 16 who have filed previously.
  • Secondary Taxpayers under age 16 who have filed in the immediate prior year (Tax Year 2011).
  • 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 Form 4868 or 2350 (extension of time to file).
  • Those who are filing on behalf of deceased taxpayers.
  • Taxpayers required to file the following forms, which must be attached 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 forms above 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. If forms or documents, other than those shown above, listed on Form 8453 need to be submitted, then the return can not be filed through MeF.

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Are there any taxpayers not eligible to use the Self-Select PIN method?

The following taxpayers are not eligible to use the Self-Select PIN method:

  • Primary Taxpayers under age 16 who have never filed.
  • Secondary Taxpayers (spouse) under age 16 who did not file in the immediate prior year.

How can the taxpayer get their prior year original AGI or prior year PIN if they did not bring in last year's tax return or they are a new client?  

The taxpayer may call the IRS toll free number at 1-800-829-1040.  If they can provide certain information to the Customer Service Representative (such as their name, SSN, and current address), they may receive the prior year original AGI amount or prior year PIN over the phone or they may request a free transcript.  Allow 7 to 10 days to receive the transcript.  Taxpayer should be sure to ask for the original AGI. Taxpayers may now also obtain an Electronic Filing PIN by internet access or phone.

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If the taxpayer has never filed a tax return or did not need to file a 2011 tax return, what amount do they enter for the prior year original AGI or prior year PIN?

Enter zero ("0") for the original AGI.  Do not leave this field blank.  The return will reject if the field is left blank for a zero amount.  However, the prior year PIN field should be left blank.

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If the taxpayer changed filing status from their 2011 tax return, what Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) or PIN do I use?

If the change is to Married Filing Jointly, then each taxpayer will use their individual original total Adjusted Gross Income amount or PIN from their respective 2011 tax returns. 

If the change is from Married Filing Jointly, then each taxpayer will use the same original total Adjusted Gross Income amount or PIN from the 2011 joint return.

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If my client had an ITIN (IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) when they filed their Tax Year 2011 tax return, but now has a SSN this filing season (TY 2012), what prior year AGI amount do they use?

If your client had an ITIN when they filed their Tax Year 2011 tax return, but now has a SSN to file their Tax Year 2012 tax return, they should use Zero (0) as the prior year AGI amount.

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What AGI amount should be used for a taxpayer that filed jointly with a different spouse in Tax Year 2011?

Use the AGI amount or PIN from the joint return filed with the ex-spouse.

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What AGI amount should be used when one taxpayer of the joint return earned all the wages?

Both taxpayers on the joint return will use the total AGI amount from the originally filed return.  The AGI amount should not be divided between the primary and the spouse.

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If my client filed an amended 2011 tax return, what AGI amount or PIN should they use?

Your client must use the original AGI amount or PIN from the originally filed return.  The return will reject if the amended AGI amount is used.  Do not use amounts from an amended return, a corrected amount from a math error notice, or a changed amount from IRS.

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If my client filed their 2011 tax return after April 15, what AGI amount should they use?

If your client's 2011 tax return was not received and processed by IRS by December 7, 2012, they must enter "0" (zero) for the AGI amount.  If the return is rejected due to mismatch of the AGI, resubmit the return using the actual values.

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If my client's Tax Year 2011 AGI is negative what should they use?

If your client's Tax Year 2011 AGI is negative they need to enter the AGI as a negative amount.

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Why is a Date of Birth required with the Self-Select PIN method?

The Date of Birth is required as part of the authentication process for the taxpayer. It will be matched against Social Security Records. The return will not be rejected if the Date of Birth does not match.  However, the Acknowledgement Record will contain the field Date of Birth Validity Code. It will advise you if the dates of birth submitted were valid or mismatched.  The following values will be returned:

  • "0" = Date of Birth Validation Not Required
  • "1" = All Dates of Birth Valid 
  • "2" = Primary Date of Birth Mismatch
  • "3" = Spouse Date of Birth Mismatch
  • "4" = Both Dates of Birth Mismatch

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

How is the return signed if my client does not want to enter a PIN?

All e-file individual returns submitted to the IRS by tax practitioners must be electronically signed using a PIN.  The Practitioner PIN method can be used to obtain the taxpayer's signature on Form 8879; this authorizes the Electronic Return Originator (ERO) to generate or enter the taxpayer's PIN on the electronically filed return.  

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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.

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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.

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Is the Self-Select PIN 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.

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Can the taxpayer use the same PIN next year?

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

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

It is acceptable for two taxpayers to choose the same five digit PIN. The taxpayer's personal information (Social Security Number, Date of Birth and original Adjusted Gross Income or PIN from the 2011 tax return) provided to the IRS is used to verify the taxpayer's identity.

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What is the Prior Year PIN?

 

The Prior Year PIN is the PIN the taxpayer used to sign their previous year tax return.

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How would my client get a copy of their Prior Year PIN?

EROs will need to provide taxpayers with documentation that has the PIN on it.  Tax Preparation software should be capable of providing the taxpayer with a copy of the PIN used in their current tax return so that it will be available for them to use as an authenticator next year.  As a suggestion, the PIN can be preprinted on the signature line of the tax return to avoid additional paper generation.

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What PIN does the taxpayer use when the prior year return was originally rejected and the corrected return/document was retransmitted with a different PIN?

The PIN that was entered on the e-file accepted tax return/document is the PIN the taxpayer must use to authenticate themselves.

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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 signatures.

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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 qualified 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.

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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 ERO 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.

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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.  The following values will be returned:

  • "Practitioner PIN"
  • "Self-Select PIN" by Practitioner Used
  • "Online Filer PIN"
 
For rejected returns, this value will not be present. 

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Will the ERO PIN be validated?

If  the ERO PIN is not present, the return will reject displaying an error reject code.

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Where can I receive a copy of the MeF Business Rules (error codes) for the Self-Select PIN method?

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

 

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If my client uses the Self-Select 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 Self-Select PIN method to sign their return, an 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.

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

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 for Form 4868 and Form 2350.   Provide Form 8879/8878 to the taxpayer along with a copy of the completed tax return/tax document, in person, by U.S. mail, a private delivery service, e-mail, FAX transmission or an internet website.  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, 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 mail or FAX. 

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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 taxpayer's PIN.

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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.

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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.

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

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.

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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.

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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/her 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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, all five tax return 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.

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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 systemically generate or manually assign the taxpayer PIN in Part II.

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What is my responsibility as an ERO using Form 8879 when another return preparer completed the taxpayer's return?

As an ERO, your responsibility is to identify the paid preparer in the appropriate fields of the electronic return record, regardless of who prepared the return.  For example, if a collected return is signed by a paid preparer, the ERO must enter the paid preparer's identifying information in the appropriate portion of the electronic return record.  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 systemically generate or manually assign the taxpayer PIN in Part II.  Page 1 and 2 of the tax return should be retained until the end of the calendar year.  

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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.

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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 Books and Records.

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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.

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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 Form 4868 and Form 2350, is available for taxpayers to authorize the ERO to input their PIN on Forms 4868 and 2350.  Form 8878 is included in some software packages.  A copy can be obtained from the IRS website, keyword Form 8878.  Spanish version, Form 8878-SP, is also available on the website.   

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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.

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Is it acceptable for an Electronic Return Originator (ERO) to electronically image and store Form 8879 and Form 8878 and meet the 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.

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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, IRS e-file Signature Authorization for Form 4868 and Form 2350.  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.

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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.

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 25-Oct-2013