The IRS does not yet have a consistent set of rules for what constitutes a valid e-signature and as a consequence, each form has its own requirements and it is incumbent upon the compliance professional to remain current on the ever-changing rules.
On the plus side, the IRS is actively engaged in encouraging e-filing and electronic documentation. Almost every form has a method by which one can obtain a valid e-signature.
- The W-9 and W-4 forms may use e-signatures and the IRS rules around them are reasonable.
- The 1096/1099 e-file process does not require a signature, but certain companies may require you to attest to the accuracy of the 1099 information that you submit.
- Recipients of 1099 and W-2s must explicitly consent to receive their forms electronically, which does not require an e-signature, but does require a record of consent.
- The I-9 cannot be completed online at this time and the e-signature requirements are worded more strictly than the W-4 and W-9.
The IRS has allowed people to fill out W-9s with an e-signature since 1998. To be valid, online W-9s with an e-signature must meet the following conditions,