updated 3:53 PM CEST, Oct 20, 2020

IRS adds languages, digital-signing capability to key forms

As part of what it says is an "effort to reach under-served communities", the Internal Revenue Service is beginning to provide "information and assistance" to taxpayers in languages other than just English, as well as making certain key documents, such as the basic 1040 tax return form, available in Spanish.

The U.S. tax collecting agency has also added six forms to the 10 it has already said it would temporarily allow taxpayers to sign digitally, in a measure it said was aimed at helping to protect the health of taxpayers and tax professionals during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition to being available in English and Spanish, the 2020 Form 1040 "will also give taxpayers the opportunity to indicate whether they wish to be contacted in a language other than English" for the first time, the IRS said, in a statement.

It said what it calls Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer, "is now available in 20 languages", while the 2020 version of Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, "will be available early next year in seven languages – English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, Korean and Chinese (Simplified and Traditional)".

Adds the IRS, in its statement: "Taxpayers who interact with an IRS representative now have access to over-the-phone interpreter services in more than 350 languages.

"The IRS has also recently begun inserting information about translation services and other multilingual options into the high-volume notices that [it] sends out to taxpayers."

As for the 10 additional forms it is now permitting the use of digital signatures on, the IRS lists them as follows: "Form 706, U.S. Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return; Form 706-NA, U.S. Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return; Form 709, U.S. Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return; Form 1120-ND, Return for Nuclear Decommissioning Funds and Certain Related Persons; Form 3520, Annual Return To Report Transactions With Foreign Trusts and Receipt of Certain Foreign Gifts; and Form 3520-A, Annual Information Return of Foreign Trust With a U.S. Owner."

These forms are available at www.IRS.gov and through tax professional's software products, the IRS noted.

Even though taxpayers can sign them digitally now, they still cannot be e-filed, "and generally are printed and mailed", the IRS said, in a statement  announcing the addition of the six forms to its digitally-signable form stable.

The IRS's willingness to accept digitally-signed documents is the latest in a series of measures the agency has taken since March, when it announced the launch of a "People First Initiative" to make it easier for taxpayers to meet their obligations during the pandemic.

In its most recent announcement, about its allowing more forms to be signed digitally, it noted that it would "continue to review its processes" to determine where the possibility of reducing the burden on the tax community might exist, "while at the same time apporpriately balancing that with critical security and protection against identity theft and fraud".