FAQ: Can you e-mail me a copy of my tax return?

Can I? Sure. Will I?

The main reason we will not e-mail you copies of your tax return (or any other sensitive tax information) is that it is illegal for us to do so unless the e-mail is encrypted. Not password protected…encrypted. I’ll be the first to admit I am not an information security expert, let alone an information security professional, but I am pretty paranoid. Simply sending you a password-protected PDF file is not enough to meet the required standards. The type and level of encryption required to send tax documents via e-mail probably eliminates the reason for doing so in the first place, namely convenience.

I have many clients tell me that they “don’t trust the mail” and would rather use e-mail. E-mail may seem (may be) more reliable than postal mail or a commercial carrier such as Federal Express but it is nowhere near as secure. With a hard copy mail carrier your information leaves its destination in a sealed envelope (I like to use Tyvek envelopes because they are also less easily ripped and don’t disintegrate when wet). It also arrives in that same sealed envelope and it is usually pretty easy to tell if it has been mishandled or tampered with somewhere along the way. E-mail provides no such security. Once your “envelope” leaves your mail program it is routed through whatever computers make most sense to the internet. And unless you are a cyber security expert, there is no way to tell just how many stops your message made or if it was opened and read along the way before arriving at its destination. It’s similar to the difference between mailing a letter in an envelope and mailing a postcard. That’s why we are required to encrypt your private information if we are going to send it via e-mail. That ensures that anyone who tries to read it can’t (your “postcard” message is written in a really strong code that can only be decoded if the person who sent the postcard originally gives you the key to unlock the code). Again, most people are looking for a convenient way to send/receive documents electronically and all this code making and breaking is extremely inconvenient.

Clients can, of course, e-mail their documents to us but I recommend that they don’t. I prefer that they don’t. I won’t even look at e-mailed documents from non-clients. To make it easier for new and existing clients to send and receive electronic documents Tax Therapy maintains a secure file portal that is integrated with our tax software. A secure file portal is an internet location where each user registers and is provided access to only those documents intended for him/her. It is the best option for electronic delivery of documents (to me or to you).

We appreciate the opportunity to meet your tax preparation needs and want to assure you that your privacy and information security are extremely important to us.