If you’re having your individual income tax returns prepared by a tax professional, odds are likely that your tax preparer will ask you to sign IRS Form 8879. This in-depth guide will walk you through:
- What IRS Form 8879 is
- Why it is required with your tax return
- Step by step instructions so you know what to expect
Let’s start with an overview of what this tax form does.
What is IRS Form 8879?
IRS Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, is the declaration document that an electronic return originator (ERO) uses as proof that the taxpayer authorized electronic submission of a return. Specifically, the tax return preparer will use Form 8879 when:
- Using the Practitioner PIN method to file the electronic income tax return, OR
- The taxpayer authorizes the ERO to generate a PIN for the individual’s e-filed return
What is an ERO?
As defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website, an ERO is “the Authorized IRS e-file Provider who originates the electronic submission of a return to the IRS.” Generally speaking, your professional tax preparer serves as the ERO for your tax return.
Does my tax preparer have to use IRS e-file?
A paid tax preparer or a tax preparation service must use the IRS e-file system if they anticipate “preparing and filing 11 or more Forms 1040 and/or 1041 during a calendar year,” unless there is an administrative exemption or approved hardship waiver.
- In most cases, your tax preparer will electronically file your personal income tax returns, AND
- Your tax preparer is also your ERO.
Let’s move on to why Form 8879 needs to accompany your tax return.
Why do I need to file IRS Form 8879 with my electronic tax return?
The IRS does not require Form 8879 to accompany your federal income tax return. However, the IRS requires your ERO to maintain this form as proof of taxpayer authorization.
Furthermore, your ERO must maintain a Form 8879 for each tax year they submit your return. In other words, you’re going to see this form year after year.
With that in mind, let’s go through Form 8879, step by step.
IRS Form 8879 Instructions
The instructions contain 3 numbered parts, as well as a taxpayer information field at the top. Before we get into the numbered parts, let’s look at the top field.
At the top of the form, there are 5 entries:
- Submission identification number: This is the unique number assigned by the IRS for each tax return.
- Taxpayer’s name
- Taxpayer’s Social Security Number
- Spouse’s name
- Spouse’s Social Security Number
Part I-Tax Return Information
In Part I, your ERO will enter certain numbers from the current year tax return:
- Adjusted gross income (AGI)
- Total tax
- Federal income tax withheld
- Amount you want refunded
- Amount you owe
Since your ERO is using electronic filing, all of this information is automatically imported from the Form 1040 itself.
Part II-Taxpayer Declaration & Signature Authorization
After you’ve completed Part I, you’ll move onto Part II. This part contains two sections.
The first section simply states everything that the taxpayer acknowledges with their electronic signature, or with their personal identification number. Below is a summary of what the taxpayer acknowledges:
- The taxpayer has actually looked at a copy of the return. Furthermore, the taxpayer believes the reported information to be true to the best of their knowledge
- The taxpayer allows the ERO to send their electronic tax return to the IRS and to receive acknowledgement from the IRS that the completed return has been received
- The taxpayer authorizes the Treasury Department to initiate an electronic funds withdrawal from the taxpayer’s financial institution account
- That the five-digit PIN in Form 8879 is the taxpayer’s PIN and electronic signature for the authorized tax return
The second section requires the taxpayer (and spouse, if applicable) to check one of two boxes:
- First box authorizes the ERO to enter or generate a five-digit PIN on the taxpayer’s behalf. This serves as the taxpayer’s signature on the income tax return.
- Second box states that the taxpayer will enter their own PIN, AND that the tax return is being filed using the Practitioner PIN method.
If the second box is checked, then the ERO must complete Part III below. This section also cautions the taxpayer to retain a copy of this form for their personal files.
Part III-Certification & Authentication
If using the Practitioner PIN method, the ERO will complete Part III which contains:
- ERO’s EFIN/PIN: This 11-digit combination contains:
- The ERO’s six-digit electronic filing identification number (EFIN)
- The ERO’s five-digit PIN
- ERO signature
Additionally, there are some IRS instructions that each ERO must follow.
- Accurately complete the information in the form, based on the taxpayer’s return
- If authorized, enter or generate an electronic PIN on the taxpayer’s behalf
- Provide the taxpayer a copy of the completed Form 8879 with their completed return
- Properly maintain a copy of the form in their records
However, the taxpayer also has some responsibilities, as stated in the form.
According to the form instructions, each taxpayer must:
- Verify the accuracy of the income tax return being filed
- Either authorize the ERO to create a PIN or use their own PIN
- Sign and date the form
- Return the completed form to the ERO
Let’s take a look to some common taxpayer questions.
Frequently asked questions
What instructions does the IRS give to my ERO?
The IRS instructs your ERO to accurately complete the return, enter the taxpayer’s PIN (if authorized), provide the taxpayer a copy of the form, and maintain a copy in their records.
What does my ERO do with my Form 8879?
The ERO keeps a copy of each accompanying Form 8879 in their files, along with each corresponding tax return.
Where can I get a copy of IRS Form 8879?
You may also download a copy of the form here.
After retiring from a 24-year career as a Naval officer in 2017, Forrest became a financial planner to help people achieve success in managing their personal finances. In 2022, he sold his partnership stake in his financial planning firm to focus on helping people full-time through his writing.
Featured in: Forrest’s writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes,, NerdWallet, Yahoo Finance, The Military Guide, The Military Wallet, Christian Science Monitor, and many other publications.
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