The Most Secure Ways to Send Tax Documents to Your Accountant

Resist the Urge to Use Email

Woman sitting at her desk making a list in her notebook.
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It's more and more common for people to enlist the remote help of accountants at tax time. Simply emailing your information can be tempting, but that's not the best idea.

You want to be sure that your tax documents are delivered in the most secure, reliable way possible. Tax documents contain sensitive information like your name, address, and Social Security numbers for you, your spouse, and your dependents. They detail how much money you earn. They show where you bank and maybe even your account numbers. You could become a victim of identity theft if this data falls into the wrong hands.

Here are some tips for making sure your data arrives at its destination intact and secure.

Key Takeaways

  • You risk identity theft if your tax documents should fall into the wrong hands, and electronic transmission can be risky. Fraudsters lurk online.
  • Think about using email encryption if you must submit documents over the internet.
  • Hand delivery is always your best option, transferring your confidential paperwork from one human being to another.
  • Always make copies first, no matter how you get them to your accountant.

Make a List

Make a list of all your W-2s, 1099s, and other tax-related documents. You'll know exactly what you sent to your accountant. And you can more easily identify what's missing if something gets lost and fails to arrive at the other end. You'll also have the start of a checklist for next year's tax prep.

Make Backup Copies

Copy each document first if you're sending the actual paper copies of your tax documents. You won't lose critical information if the documents get lost. You can photocopy them or scan them to create images or PDF files that can be saved to your computer or flash drive. Make sure you have a backup copy before sending the originals to your accountant.

Hand Deliver If Possible

The most secure way of passing along documents is the most time-tested one: hand them directly to the recipient. You can put this tactic to work by personally delivering your tax documents to your accountant if at all possible. At the very least, hand them to an assistant or other office personnel. This eliminates any risk that they'll get lost or be hijacked by hackers and scammers.

Mailing Your Documents Is a Good Second Option

Mail delivery is pretty secure. It's probably your second best option if hand delivery is impossible or is an inconvenience.

Mailed documents are protected from casual "eavesdropping," thanks to the envelope. Opening someone else's mail is a crime in the U.S. That might not deter a determined criminal, but at least there are laws on the books to punish offenders.

Note

Documents can and sometimes do become lost or damaged in the mail, so it might be a good idea to send the backup copies you made rather than the originals. You might also think about using tracking services or requiring a signature upon delivery.

Faxing Your Documents Works for Simple Documents

Faxing documents can be a quick way to deliver them. It's relatively secure. The chances are good that your fax won't be intercepted by identity thieves as long as the accountant's phone line isn't tapped.

But there are a few downsides. The biggest risk is that you get the fax number wrong and send the data to a stranger. And faxed documents can sometimes be hard to read. The last thing a tax professional wants to do is sit there guessing if a number is a six or an eight (or take time to call you to find out).

Note

Faxing works best if you just need to send a few pages. You may have to choose another method of delivery for longer documents, and for documents with copy on both sides of the page.

Use Encryption If You Must Use Email

Email is convenient and fast, but it also poses some security risks. Your emails and attachments are likely vulnerable unless you take precautions, such as the use of encrypted communication.

Luckily, there are many encrypted services that security-minded consumers can use. Chip Capelli, an accountant located in Provincetown, Massachusetts, mentions LeapFILE as one such method that's a game-changer.

At the very least, place your tax documents inside an encrypted wrapper such as a password-protected DOC, PDF, or ZIP file. "Scan everything to a PDF, and then password protect it," Capelli advises.

Never send information that you want to keep private as plain text in the body of your email message. This poses big risks if you were to send the message to the wrong address or if prying eyes manage to access your email account. Taking simple precautionary steps goes a long way in helping to protect your finances.

Use a Secure Portal

Another way to transmit documents is to use a secure portal to upload them. These servers offer a secure way for clients and their tax pros to view documents. They minimize risk. Secure portals that are used in the industry include GoFileRoom and Canopy Tax.

Clients can create a passcode for each document within a secure portal. Only the person with the password can access the document.

If Worse Comes to Worst

Reach out to the IRS right away if you suspect that you've been compromised. The IRS will look into the matter. You can use Form 10439 to let the IRS know that something is awry if fraud is keeping you from properly filing your taxes.

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Sources
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. IRS. "Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft."

  2. Canopy. "Is Your Firm Secure in the Cloud?"

  3. IRS. "When to File a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit."

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