We notice that a growing portion of our tax clients prefer to communicate by text message over other methods like live in-person, telephone, fax, email, and video call. It is clear that texting is the #1 tax communication method now, exceeding the combined use of all other methods. The IRS and state tax authorities do not specifically address the use of text message communications so this leaves it up to us to interpret various positions.
With regard to the signature required for the most common filings IRS says “The taxpayer may return the completed Form 8878 or Form 8879 to the ERO by hand delivery, U.S. mail, private delivery service, fax, email or an Internet website.” There is no mention of text message. We interpret this guidance to mean that a manually signed document then scanned or photographed and delivered by text message to meet the same requirements. (This blog post does not address electronic signature capture technology methods; that is a different topic).
We use the same document handling standard for representation forms including a Form 2848 Power or Attorney, fully disclosed to various IRS agents in real time while working on cases, and IRS has never objected.
Consensus industry sources indicate that text message is at least as secure as fax and email. Apple’s iMessage, available only from one Apple device to another, appears to be the most secure, including safety from possible government prying eyes. We use Apple devices for mobile device text messaging (the 856 area code number). We use Google technology for office line texting (the 302 area code number) where messages are apparently stored on a Google server.
Email and text enabled phone required
We still require remote tax service clients to have and use a private personal email address and text enabled phone to meet various other industry security standards (including identity confirmations) that are not otherwise directly related to IRS or tax communications. This is simply because virtually all other technology platforms we rely on now use two tier security verification protocol using email and text message.