IRS Updates E-Signature Policies

Mary Ellen Power, March 17, 2014
IRS Esignatures

Electronic signatures are particularly valuable in industries that require secure, legal and efficient documentation for complex and important processes. As such, it should come as little surprise that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has updated its electronic signature policies to expand its acceptance of e-signatures to include Forms 8878 and 8879.

E-Signature Updates From the IRS Help Make Tax Return Process More Efficient

As a recent Accounting Today report explained, the IRS has made key updates to its "Handbook for Authorized IRS e-file Providers of Individual Income Tax Returns" to help accounting professionals like Electronic Return Originators (EROs) process tax returning more quickly and securely using e-signatures. This added convenience for EROs and their customers is only outshone by the fact that the IRS is making inroads towards a paperless environment. Using e-signatures, organizations like the IRS streamline operations and minimize the complexity of trying to mail, store and validate paper records while ensuring regulatory compliance. The end result is a more convenient and secure process for the organization, the intermediary (whether that's an ERO, a retirement product salesperson or an insurance agent) and the customer.

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Learning From the IRS

Taking on such procedures is not, by any means, exclusive to the IRS. Many financial services firms need to deal with similarly complex internal and external transactions. Pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, non-IRS government organizations and other businesses also face similar types of operations where accuracy is critical and any delays in the signature process can be incredibly problematic.

That's why formalizing e-signature policies as the IRS has done, along with designing an easy-to-use yet legally compliant process, is incredibly important to ensuring user adoption. An e-signature is, after all, a process, not a technology, and should be designed with both internal and external benefits in mind for optimal success. To find out more about the IRS' recent initiative, visit the Electronic Signature Guidance for Forms 8878 and 8879. Businesses that want to follow the IRS' lead and get started on e-signatures may want to check out our Enterprise E-Signature Requirements Checklist.