Signing an Electronic Tax Return (Updated 03/14/2017)
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 seek that information from the preparer or software they used last year. If they are unable to attain the AGI from those sources, the taxpayer should access Get Transcript on IRS.gov and order a transcript to obtain the AGI.
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 (Forms 8878 and 8879) (Updated 11/06/2014)
Anytime an ERO enters the taxpayer’s PIN on the electronic return, the ERO must, prior to submission of the return, complete an IRS e-file Signature Authorization form which must be signed by the taxpayer. 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 Form 4868 and Form 2350, authorizes an ERO to enter the taxpayers’ PINs on Form 1040 extension forms. The ERO must keep 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. 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 Form 8879 to the ERO by hand delivery, U.S. mail, private delivery service, fax, email or an Internet website.
Only taxpayers who provide a completed tax return to an ERO for electronic filing may sign 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 Form 8879 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.