IRS accepting email and digital signatures on tax documents due to coronavirus

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The Internal Revenue Service is now accepting email and digital signatures on tax documents to make it easier for tax professionals and taxpayers to communicate with the agency during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The IRS said Monday that, effective immediately, it would “begin temporarily accepting images of signatures (scanned or photographed) and digital signatures on documents related to the determination or collection of tax liability.”

In addition, the IRS is letting its employees accept documents through email, transmitting documents to taxpayers using SecureZip or other “established secure messaging systems.”

“The IRS is continuing to monitor methods to lessen the burden on taxpayers and professionals during this period,” said Sunita Lough, IRS deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, in a statement Monday. “We greatly appreciate the patience, support and valuable comments we continue to receive from the tax professional community as we move forward.”

The effort, which was also described in an internal IRS memo, comes in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and aims to help the IRS perform some of its primary duties while its own employees, as well as taxpayers and their tax professional representatives, are working from remote locations outside their offices. On Monday, IRS employees were directed to start working remotely (see our story).

Concerning emails, the IRS said the taxpayer or their representative needs to include a statement, either in the form of an attached cover letter or within the body of the email, saying to the effect: “The attached [name of document] includes [name of taxpayer]’s valid signature and the taxpayer intends to transmit the attached document to the IRS.” The choice to transmit documents electronically is solely up to the taxpayer.

The limited categories of documents included within the scope of the digital effort include extensions of statute of limitations on assessment or collection, waivers of statutory notices of deficiency and consents to assessment, agreements to specific tax matters or tax liabilities (closing agreements), and any other statement or form that needs the signature of a taxpayer or representative and is traditionally collected by IRS personnel outside of standard filing procedures (such as a case-specific Power of Attorney).

The IRS said it’s continuing to review the standards for e-signing other kinds of documents, and it’s asking for suggestions and comments while it looks into additional efforts to lower the burden on taxpayers and tax professionals during this period.

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