Requirements for Furnishing Information Returns Electronically
Information returns may be provided to individuals in paper copy or electronically. The guidelines for electronic distribution are outlined below.
To provide an information return electronically, you must:
- Get the recipient’s consent
- Provide specific notices to the recipient
- Keep electronic forms available for a minimum timeframe
- Notify recipients of changes to your distribution method
You may provide an information return electronically instead of on paper if the recipient:
- Provides written consent
- Has not withdrawn consent before they receive the statement
- Consents electronically in a way that shows they can access the statement in the same format you provide it in
You must display the following information to the recipient before you obtain consent:
- Your commitment to provide a paper copy if they do not consent
- The scope and duration of consent
- How to withdraw consent
- How to get a paper copy after they’ve given consent
- The conditions under which you will no longer provide an electronic statement
- How they can update their information (for example, their employment has been terminated)
- A list of the hardware and software required to access, print and save their statement
- The date their statement will no longer be available
Timeframe for Electronic Distribution
All information returns, whether distributed electronically or on paper, must be available to each recipient by January 31 of the year following the year in which the government made the payment.
If the electronic statement is posted on a website, you must notify the recipient – either in person, electronically or by mail – when their electronic statement is posted.
Electronic statements posted on a website must be available on the website until October 15 of the year following the year in which the payment was made (or the first business day after October 15 if that date falls on a Saturday or Sunday).
Technical Changes to Distribution Method
If you plan changes to the hardware or software you use to distribute information returns and if there is any risk that the recipients won’t be able to access their statements, you must notify them.
Before you make the technical platform changes, you must tell recipients that:
- You will be changing the hardware or software through which their forms are distributed
- They will need to once again consent to receive information returns in the new electronic format
After you update the technical platform, you must then get the recipient’s new written consent to receive the form electronically.
The requirements for furnishing information returns are set forth in Publication 1179, General Rules and Specifications for Substitute Forms 1096, 1098, 1099, 5498, and Certain Other Information Returns, specifically in section 4.6, “Electronic Delivery of Recipient Statements.”