PLR and other requests for IRS guidance can now be sent electronically

By Sally P. Schreiber, J.D.

To enable taxpayers to continue to submit requests for IRS guidance during the coronavirus pandemic, the IRS is temporarily allowing the electronic submission of requests for letter rulings, closing agreements, determination letters, and information letters under the jurisdiction of the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, and for determination letters issued by the IRS Large Business and International (LB&I) Division (Rev. Proc. 2020-29, modifying Rev. Proc 2020-1). For these purposes, electronic submission means by fax or in encrypted email attachments.

Until the IRS modifies and supersedes this procedure, both paper and electronic requests for advice will be accepted, although the IRS warns of delays in processing paper requests because of limited personnel. It is also permitting taxpayers who have a paper request pending to send an additional electronic one but asks that the request be marked as a duplicate.

The revenue procedure does not modify procedures for determination letters from the IRS’s Small Business/Self Employed Division, Wage and Investment Division, or Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, which continue to be governed by Rev. Proc. 2020-1. Rev. Proc. 2020-1 generally requires taxpayers to submit paper copies of written materials with “wet” signatures.

The IRS is encouraging taxpayers and their representatives to use a secure fax service to transmit requests. For requests under the jurisdiction of any of the Associate Chief Counsel Offices, use 877-773-4950. For determination letter requests under the jurisdiction of LB&I, use 844-249-6231. Users must first pay required fees at pay.gov and submit a receipt with the request.

Taxpayers submitting requests by email are also required to complete and include an Acknowledgment of Risks of Email, which is attached to the revenue procedure. The statement acknowledges the risk that electronic transmissions, however encrypted, may be intercepted by unauthorized persons and holds the government harmless for any breach. The guidance also suggests that the requester not include any identifying information in unencrypted emails.

Rev. Proc. 2020-29 allows for electronic signatures for submissions that under Rev. Proc. 2020-1 require wet signatures. The IRS will accept images of signatures (scanned or photographed) in one of the following formats: TIFF, JPG, JPEG, PDF, Microsoft Office suite, or Zip. It will also accept digital signatures that use encryption techniques to provide proof of original and unmodified documentation in one of the following formats: TIFF, JPG, JPEG, PDF, Microsoft Office suite, or Zip.

The revenue procedure is effective the date the guidance was released to the public (April 30) until it is modified or superseded.

For more news and reporting on the coronavirus and how CPAs can handle challenges related to the pandemic, visit the JofA’s coronavirus resources page.

For tax-related resources, visit the AICPA’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Tax Resources page.

 Sally P. Schreiber, J.D., (Sally.Schreiber@aicpa-cima.com) is a JofA senior editor.

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