How to sign documents

Electronic signatures, recognized by law in many countries (including the US, Canada, and Europe) since the early 2000s, are as valid as traditional paper signatures. No need to visit your accountant's office or send documents via mail—simply sign any document directly on your client portal. In this article, we will explain how.

Covered here:

E-signing firm-prepared documents

To review and sign a document, follow these steps:

1. Go to the  Documents category of your Home and Documents pages to find documents pending signatures.

2. Open a document pending signature. When you receive the signature request for the first time, read the Electronic Signatures Disclosure, agree to use e-signatures, check the box, and click Continue.

2. To start signing the document, click on the Start button to the far right.

If your document requires a QES/AdES, the flow is different. Please read the section below

3. Review the content, then click the fields to e-sign where requested. A Fields to fill counter at the top helps you along. Enter your signature and initials just once; they’re then used for subsequent documents.

4. Click Next to highlight the next field. Note: You cannot sign a document until all fields are filled in.

5. Once all fields are filled in, click Finish. If KBA was requested, see the section below.

Declining to e-sign the document

Don’t want to sign? Click the three dots at the top right of the document and select Decline to sign, then confirm by clicking Opt-Out of Electronic Signature. Get in touch with the firm to discuss other options.

Editing your e-signature

Once you sign and initial a document, your e-signature and initials are used in subsequent docs when you click on the required fields.

If you want to edit your initials or signature, click in the required field, make your changes, then press Insert.

Toggle on Insert everywhere if you want to update the signature or initials everywhere on the doc.

Adding a handwritten signature

Not everyone accepts typed signatures, but you can always create a handwritten one:

1. Click the My signature or Initials field.

2. Switch to the Draw tab, then sign using your finger on your mouse pad or by using your mouse.

3. Click Insert.

If you want to redo the signature, click Clear while editing and sign again.

E-signature with knowledge-based authentication (KBA)

KBA or Knowledge Based Authentication is the identity verification process that the IRS requires to electronically sign Form 8879.

If your accountant has requested KBA, fill in all signature fields as described above, then click Finish with KBA inside the document. Answer the questions to verify your identity, then click Finish. You get two attempts for KBA and need to answer at least three out of five questions correctly.

KBA is only possible with a social security number (SSN) - not ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). ITINs are issued to an individual for taxation purposes only. ITINs are not meant to be used as identification for obtaining credit. Credit systems won’t recognize them as anything other than an incorrect SSN, so they cannot be used for KBA.

You’ll see a notification at the top of the page when the document has been successfully signed.

The Knowledge-based Authentication (KBA) questions are generated from public databases and the financial history of the signer. To make KBA a reliable method of verifying identity and keeping confidential data secure, various safeguards have been built into the KBA process. These safeguards can sometimes prevent some signers from completing a KBA. On rare occasions, the information in the public databases is incorrect and the signer is not able to provide matching responses. Various KBA studies indicate that the average success rate for the KBA is around 90%.

Some reasons why signers may not be able to complete the KBA process are (but are not limited to):

  • A newly married taxpayer whose public records use their maiden names and previous addresses.
  • The information in public records may be incorrect and our software may not be able to match this information in the return.
  • The information in the public databases may be incorrect and your client may be unable to answer those questions.
  • Young clients or clients who have recently moved to the U.S. may not be good candidates for Form 8879 eSign since a successful KBA may not be possible if they have limited public records.

Handling SSN verification error for KBA 

If you encounter the error message: " Unfortunately, there are no questions available to verify your identity for the social security number provided," it means our KBA provider couldn't gather enough data from credit bureaus or public records to create the required set of five questions based on the provided SSN. This typically occurs when your financial activity hasn't been substantial enough in the public eye to generate the verification questionnaire.

As of now, there isn't a direct workaround for this issue. To provide a compliant e-signature remotely, you may need to follow these steps:

  1. Print the required forms.
  2. Sign the printed forms by hand.
  3. Scan the signed forms back into the system.

This process allows you to provide your signature while adhering to the necessary compliance standards, despite the SSN verification error.

E-signature with Qualified and Advanced electronic signatures (QES/AdES)

Qualified electronic signature (QES) ensures compliance with the highest standards of electronic signatures, meeting the requirements set forth by European regulatory bodies (eIDAS). QES has the same legal value and effect as a handwritten signature.

Advanced electronic signature (AdES) functions similarly to QES and follows the same process in your client portal. However, unlike QES, AdES does not use a qualified certificate to verify the signatory's identity. As a result, AdES is generally considered to be less legally binding than QES.

If your firm enabled QES/AdES, you will be notified that the document requires a QES/AdES and you will need to verify your identity before signing.

Once you click the Sign document button:

  1. Select your country from the drop-down.
  2. Choose an authentication provider and follow the authentication process.

Depending on the selected provider, you might be required to use your personal identity code number, provider's website or app.

To learn more about the authentication process of the selected provider, click the link at the bottom of the Select your country and the authenticator app page.

Once the document is signed, you will see the signature stamp at its bottom:

Document is pending e-signature, but there are no signature fields

If a document is pending signature, but there are no e-signature fields, either you don’t need to sign it or you must access the same account from another linked email address (for more details, go here). 

Sometimes a preparer needs signatures from both account users (e.g., spouses) or just one. If a signature was requested from the other user, and they haven’t signed yet, you won’t see any e-signature fields on your end. The document will remain in Pending E-Signature status until the other user has signed.

If you and your spouse use the same computer to access TaxDome and save your login details, it's important to manage document signatures correctly to avoid confusion. Usually, firms add a signature space for each person and send documents accordingly. But sometimes, if one of you logs in with the other's saved login, signs the document, and saves it, the other person might not see the signature field when they log in, and that can be confusing. To resolve this, log into the correct account and sign the missing signature field. This will help keep things organized and clear for both of you.

Did this answer your question? Thanks for the feedback There was a problem submitting your feedback. Please try again later.