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Signing an Electronic Tax Return (Updated 3/20/2014)

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 taxpayers' 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, 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 year 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 this 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 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. Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, authorizes an ERO to enter the taxpayers’ PINs on individual income tax returns and 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. Note: Form 8878 is only required for Forms 4868 when taxpayers are authorizing an electronic funds withdrawal and want an ERO to enter their PINs.

The ERO may enter the taxpayers’ PINs in the electronic return record before the taxpayers sign Form  8878 or 8879 but the taxpayers must sign and date the appropriate form before the ERO originates the electronic submission of the return. The taxpayer must sign and date the Form 8878 or Form 8879, 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 8878 or 8879 or 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 8878 and 8879. 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 8878 or 8879 form 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 8878 or Form 8879 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,  and PTIN) in the electronic return.

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.

EROs may sign Forms 8878 and 8879 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 8878 and Form 8879 by a handwritten or electronic signature. The ERO must retain Forms 8878 and 8879 for three years from the return due date or the IRS received date, whichever is later. EROs must not send Forms  8878 and 8879 to the IRS unless the IRS requests they do so.

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 01-Apr-2014