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Is there a way to get "signed" PDF copies of returns that have been e-filed through PTO?

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Level 1
A client's lender is requesting "signed copies" of recent returns. They won't accept the unsigned PDF copies I can print from the PTO e-file page. What I really need is a way to see/print/share the return in the exact form it was sent to the IRS.
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Level 15

There has never been a "signed" copy of the return ever.  The only signed copy is with the IRS.  Taxpayers have always provided their copies as supporting document.  The signed F.8879 and E-File Confirmation Letter should be proof enough, if necessary.  Otherwise, your client can request a transcript from the IRS.

If you are in the midst of these discussions between your client and the lender, hope you are getting paid and have the proper authorization to speak or furnish tax info to the lender as a third party.

In our engagement letter, we clearly states that the returns we prepare are only for filing with the relevant tax authorities and not intended to be used for other purposes.  Clients are free to use the returns as they see fit but we won't get in the middle of other financial transactions they engage in.

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A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.

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Level 15
Level 15

I re-fi'd a few months ago, the bank asked for copies of the signed 8879 OR the signed copy of the return...easier to scan and send the 8879.


♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥Lisa♥¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪
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Level 15

There has never been a "signed" copy of the return ever.  The only signed copy is with the IRS.  Taxpayers have always provided their copies as supporting document.  The signed F.8879 and E-File Confirmation Letter should be proof enough, if necessary.  Otherwise, your client can request a transcript from the IRS.

If you are in the midst of these discussions between your client and the lender, hope you are getting paid and have the proper authorization to speak or furnish tax info to the lender as a third party.

In our engagement letter, we clearly states that the returns we prepare are only for filing with the relevant tax authorities and not intended to be used for other purposes.  Clients are free to use the returns as they see fit but we won't get in the middle of other financial transactions they engage in.

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A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.

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Level 1

Those are good practice pointers, and I agree with everything you're saying in principle. At the same time, it was not uncommon, in the bad-old-days before we had electronic filing, to make a copy of the signed return before sending it to the IRS and to retain that copy in the client's file. I'm essentially looking for the modern equivalent of that practice with an e-filed return. 

You may assume that I am authorized by my client to do what I am doing and that I have considered the business and other implications of doing so. 

My question is purely practical: Is there a way to have the PTO software generate a PDF that shows the return, signed using a PIN (as the Form 8879 indicates it would be), in the form in which it was sent to the IRS?

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Level 15
Level 15


Signing with PIN is only for Efiling, not paper filing and theyre giving the paper filing to the lender....so have them sign the paper copy, then scan it and send to the lender...you cant do it from your end unless you have a copy of the actual signed return.


♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥Lisa♥¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪
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Level 1

Thanks. I think that's probably what I'll have them do, but it just seems like there should be a way to produce something from the software that is more authoritative than the e-file confirmation letter. To be clear, I'm not talking about a paper filing - I'm talking about having a copy of the e-filed return that could be printed out or viewed on a computer screen.

As a tax attorney, tax preparation is only one component of my practice. In other parts of my practice there are a wide variety of documents that we electronically file, with a wide variety of acceptable "signature" requirements, depending on the court or government agency involved. But in every other e-filing situation, I can produce a printable or computer viewable copy of the final document, in the form in which it was sent to the court or agency. I'm wondering why the same thing isn't possible with an e-filed tax return. Or is it possible in principle the PTO software can't do it for some reason? 

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Level 15

This is not a deficiency in PTO.  It is just how the IRS' e-File Schemas work.

I agree it would be preferable to have the e-signatures as well as e-file acknowledgements attached to the return.  The IRS is still at the early stage of adopting anything electronic and does not accept electronic or digital signatures for various documents.  Part of it is from its concerns about the risk of taxpayers disavowing signatures provided in electronic forms.  So, this really involves both legal and technical issues that will take some time to resolve.

For now, the process is a bit fragmented.  But it doesn't mean that these separate documents are informal or not authoritative.

First of all, the metadata for e-signature is embedded in F.8879 even though it is not printable.  Similarly, the E-File Confirmation Letter (which is a substitute for F.9325) is attached to the return and can only be printed from the return that was e-filed.

As you are aware, the IRS is authorized by the statue under §6061(b) to "develop procedures for the acceptance of signatures in digital or other electronic form."  F.8879 and F.9325 are the products of these guidelines.  Pub 1345 clearly outlines the relevant rules and requirements for e-filing which, in turn, is governed by FTC rules, Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA), Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-SIGN), Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), and various NIST standards.  There have been some very careful deliberations on the IRS' part what constitutes acceptable signature, legally speaking, for tax purposes.  All of that makes this one hot bowl of soup with plenty of alphabets that could make a mess if it lands on someone's lap.

The existing process definitely has much room for improvement but, for the reasons stated, I would certainly stand by the use of those separate documents as official proof of filing.

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A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.
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Level 1

That makes sense to me. Thanks for bearing with me through all the follow-up questions. I still hope they'll come up with a better system in the future, but this gives me a much better handle on where things stand at this point. 

One last follow-up (if you have a minute): Is there any way to have PTO generate a 9325 to give to clients? Any reason a preparer couldn't (or shouldn't) just fill out a 9325 based on the information provided on the e-file confirmation, and give that to clients for their records?

Thanks again - to both of you who responded - for your thoughtful comments and suggestions. 

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Level 15

Glad to be of help, @wjdukes.  You could well prepare the Form 9325 and send it to your client.

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A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.
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Level 15

You can't generate a return signed with a PIN from the F.8879.  PIN is never acceptable for filing a paper return and will, therefore, never appear on the paper copy.  If a paper return is to be filed, the IRS has been accepting mechanically printed names of preparers for many years, so you rarely see a preparer signature in wet ink anyway.

Practically, if you must, reprint a the return, sign your name, back-date it, and put a "COPY" stamp over those pages like in the bad-old-days.

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A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.
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Level 1

I'm sure you're right. It just seems crazy that there's no better way to do this. In my law practice, we electronically file documents with various courts and government agencies, and there is no other example I can think of where I can't produce a printable or computer-viewable copy of the final, signed, filed document.  Most of those documents don't have wet signatures either - that's not really the point. But the general understanding in most contexts is that a document that hasn't been signed (whether that's a wet signature, typed signature, pin, digital-encryption certificate, or whatever) is merely a draft that may or may not have been changed before it was signed and filed. 

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