By Martha Waggoner, for the Journal of Accountancy
A temporary change that the IRS made during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow electronic signatures on some forms, documents, and returns was made permanent in the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) last week.
In response to the pandemic, the IRS first announced on Aug. 28, 2020, that until Dec. 31, 2020, it would allow electronic signatures on certain forms that otherwise could not be signed electronically. On Dec. 28, 2020, the IRS announced that this policy would be extended until June 30, 2021. On April 21, 2021, the IRS added additional forms to the list of forms that could be signed electronically and extended the policy to Dec. 31, 2021.
In interim guidance memorandum NHQ-10-1121-0005, Temporary Deviation from Handwritten Signature Requirement for Limited List of Tax Forms (Nov. 18, 2021), the policy was extended to Oct. 31, 2023. A few months ago, the IRS announced on its electronic signature extension website: "We're working to extend the temporary policy to allow e-signatures for certain forms beyond October 2023 while we develop long-term solutions for this capability."
On Oct. 17, NHQ-10-1121-0005 was fully incorporated into the IRM in Section 10.10.1. Exhibit 10.10.1-2 of the IRM lists the forms for which an e-signature is acceptable. The policy applies to forms signed on or after Aug. 28, 2020.
The AICPA has long advocated for and requested permanently allowing e-signatures, including most recently in a May 9 letter to Treasury and the IRS.
Support for e-signatures dates to at least 1998, when Congress passed the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act, P.L. 105-206, which called on Treasury "to develop procedures for the acceptance of signatures in digital or other electronic form."
— To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Martha Waggoner at Martha.Waggoner@aicpa-cima.com.