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IRS begins e-signatures on 25 million annual forms

The agency's adoption of e-signature standards means DocuSign and others can now allow anyone filing a request for income verification to sign electronically.

The IRS will now allow people submitting form 4506-T -- which is a request for income verification used 25 million times a year -- to sign it with DocuSign. DocuSign

LAS VEGAS--If there's one organization that could make the most people's lives easier by accepting digital signatures, it would be the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Sadly, the IRS is still a long way from letting all tax filers submit their annual returns via electronic signature. But today, it got one step closer to that when it began accepting signatures on income verification forms via companies like DocuSign, Adobe, eSignSystems, and others.

The IRS' adoption of e-signatures for form 4506-T, formally a "request for transcript of tax return," is the result of the government tax agency getting up to speed on new standards issued a number of years ago as part of the e-Sign Act.

At CES today, DocuSign announced that the IRS would now accept digital signatures on form 4506-T. The company and the IRS hope that mortgage brokers, credit card companies, credit unions, and other financial institutions will see a growth in business as a result. And why not? According to DocuSign, the IRS' adoption of the e-signature standards on form 4506-T will save as much as one to three days on the front end more than 25 million times annually.

DocuSign said that it and its partner, Equifax, had conducted a trial with the IRS and that its successful completion led to today's rollout. The program was contingent on the tax agency being satisfied that digitally signed forms met the following criteria:

  • Secure authorization
  • Knowledge-based and multifactored authentication
  • Consumer consent
  • A separate audit trail that allowed a lender to track who signed the form and from where, regardless of whether it was by mobile device or on a PC.
  • Being tamper-proof

Although this is the first step for the IRS' integration with DocuSign, it isn't the first such government arrangement. Others that have begun accepting DocuSign include Butte County in California and the state of North Carolina.

Update, January 8 at 10:04 a.m. PT: An Adobe representative e-mailed CNET to point out that the IRS isn't accepting only DocuSign signatures. Adobe's EchoSign team has partnered with Veri-Tax, a provider of verification and fraud management products, to power Veri-Tax's Form 4506-T eSignature platform.

Correction, January 11 at 1:30 p.m. PT: This story originally mischaracterized the IRS' adoption of e-signatures on form 4506-T. In fact, the agency was getting up to speed with standards agreed upon under the e-Sign Act.