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E-file tax returns for clients

Learn how to e-file federal payroll tax returns as an accountant on behalf of your clients.

As an accountant, if you plan to e-file federal payroll tax returns for clients, you must register with the IRS as a Reporting Agent. The following sections explain how to become a Reporting Agent. And how to e-file payroll tax forms for your clients.

Note: To do this you need the supported QuickBooks Desktop Accountants edition and a have a subscription to QuickBooks Desktop Payroll Enhanced for Accountants.

Become a Reporting Agent

You must fully complete each of the following steps for the IRS to authorize you to e-file payroll tax returns on behalf of clients.

Step 1: Complete and submit IRS Form 8655 for each client for whom you will e-file.

Step 2: Apply to participate in the IRS e-file program by creating an IRS e-Services account and submitting your e-File Provider application.

Step 3: Pass a suitability check.

For more information about this process, see Become an Authorized e-file Provider

Warning The information provided in this article is subject to change by the IRS. Always confirm the correct process with the IRS.

Step 1: Complete and submit IRS Form 8655

The first step in the process is to complete and submit to the IRS a Form 8655 for each client for whom you will e-file. This form authorizes you to act on behalf of your clients.

You can download a copy from IRS Form 8655. Instructions for completing the form are included on page 2.

To complete and submit Form 8655:

  1.  Enter the required information in the Taxpayer and Reporting Agent sections of the form.
  2. In the Authorization of Reporting Agent to Sign and File Returns section (line 15), enter:
    • The first tax year (in YYYY format) for which you'll e-file Form 940 and Form 941
    • The ending month of the first quarter (in YYYY/MM format) in which you'll e-file Form 941
  3. Complete the remaining fields on the form.
  4. Have the taxpayer (your client) Sign the form, enter the taxpayer's Title, and enter the Date the form was signed.
    Guidance on who can sign Form 8655 is included in the instructions on page 2 of the form.
  5. Print the completed form, and generate a list of all of your clients for whom you are submitting Forms 8655, listing the business name and EIN of each client.
  6. Submit the forms by fax (to 855-214-7523) or mail them to:
    Internal Revenue Service
    Accounts Management Service Center
    MS 6748 RAF Team
    1973 North Rulon White Blvd.
    Ogden, UT 84404
Warning:  Fully complete the Authorization of Reporting Agent to Sign and File Returns section (line 15). If you don't enter information for a form, you can't e-file that form for your client.

Step 2A: Create an IRS e-Services account

Once you have submitted Form 8655, you must apply to participate in the IRS e-file program. There are two parts to do this: First, set up an IRS e-Services account for all the principals in the company, and then submit the application.

Set up an IRS e-Services account

Make sure that every principal and responsible official in your firm signs up for e-Services. You can find definitions of a principal and a responsible official in IRS Publication 3112, IRS e-file Application and Participation.

All e-Services users must register using a two-factor authentication process called Secure Access. When you set up your e-Services account, you must create a username, password, and PIN with which to sign in to your eServices account.

To apply for an e-Services account, visit the IRS e-Services website to access the application and review the requirements. You'll need to provide:

  • A readily available email address
  • Your Social Security number
  • Your filing status and address from your last-filed tax return
  • Your personal account number from a credit card, home mortgage loan, home equity (second mortgage) loan, home equity line of credit (HELOC), or
    car loan (the IRS does not retain this data)
  • A readily available U.S-based mobile phone capable of receiving text messages. If the mobile number cannot be linked to your name, you can request that your activation code be mailed to you during registration.

Follow the instructions on the IRS website to set up the account for each principal. Be sure to confirm your registration when you receive your confirmation code. The verification and approval process for e-Services accounts can take several days, so plan accordingly.

Step 2B: Submit an Application

Once the principals in your firm are approved for e-Services, you can begin the application to become an Authorized IRS e-file Provider. The application is comprehensive to protect the integrity and security of the electronic filing system.

Steps in the application process include:

  1. Log in to e-Services and access the online application to become an IRS e-file provider.
  2. Enter identification information for your firm, as well as services provided to taxpayers.
  3. Enter the requested information for each principal and responsible official in your organization.
  4. Specify an e-File Provider option. As a return preparer who wants to e-file for clients, select Electronic Return Originator (ERO).
  5. Enter the current professional status and requested information for any principal or responsible official who is an attorney, certified public accountant, enrolled agent, officer of a publicly owned corporation, or bonded bank official.

If a principal or responsible official is not an attorney, certified public accountant, enrolled agent, officer of a publicly-owned corporation, or bonded bank official, they must provide fingerprints to the IRS.

You can call the IRS toll-free at 866-255-0654 to request a fingerprint card.

You can then be fingerprinted by a trained professional at your local police station or at a company that provides this service. Mail the signed and completed fingerprinting card to:
Internal Revenue Service
310 Lowell St. Stop 983
EFU Acceptance Testing
Andover, MA 01810-5430

The IRS can take up to 45 days to approve an Authorized IRS e-file Provider application, so plan accordingly.

Step 3: Pass a Suitability Check

After your application is submitted, the IRS conducts a suitability check for each person listed on your application. This may include the following:

  • Credit check
  • Tax compliance check
  • Criminal background check
  • Check for prior non-compliance with IRS e-file requirements

Once approved, you'll get an acceptance letter from the IRS with the Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN) you need to e-file returns.

e-File payroll tax forms

Once you have established yourself as a Reporting Agent and are authorized to e-file returns, you can prepare and submit Forms 941, 944, or 940 payroll tax forms on behalf of your client from QuickBooks Desktop.

  1. Select Employees, and select Payroll Center.
  2. On the File Forms tab, select the version of the appropriate form with For Reporting Agents in the title.
  3. Select Create Form.
  4. Enter and review the required information.
  5. Select Submit Form.
    If you get an error message, fix all errors and resubmit the form. You cannot proceed with errors on the form.
  6. In the Print/E-File window, select E-File Federal Form.
    The login screen appears.
  7. Enter the requested information, including your EFIN and your e-Services PIN.
  8. Select Remember my information for next time to save your information and auto-populate these fields the next time you access this dialog.
  9. Select Submit.