The IRS has granted to withholding agents an administrative exemption from the electronic filing requirements for Form 1042, Annual Withholding Tax Return for U.S. Source Income of Foreign Persons. Under the exemption:

  • withholding agents (both U.S. and foreign persons) are not required to file Forms 1042 electronically during calendar year 2024; and
  • withholding agents that are foreign persons are not required to file Forms 1042 electronically during calendar year 2025.

The exemption is automatic, so withholding agents do not need to file an electronic filing waiver request to use the exemption.

Electronic Filing of Form 1042

Under Code Sec. 6011(e), the IRS must prescribe regulations with standards for determining which federal tax returns must be filed electronically. In 2023, final regulations were published to implement amendments to Code Sec. 6011(e) that lowered the threshold number of returns for required electronic filing of certain returns. The regulations included requirements for filing Form 1042 electronically.

The final regulations provide that:

  • a withholding agent (but not an individual, estate,or trust) must electronically file Form 1042 if the agent is required to file 10 or more returns of any type during the same calendar year in which Form 1042 is required to be filed;
  • a withholding agent that is a partnership with more than 100 partners must electronically file Form 1042 regardless of the number of returns the partnership is required to file during the calendar year; and
  • a withholding agent that is a financial institution must electronically file Form 1042 without regard to the number of returns it is required to file during the calendar year.

The final regulations apply to Forms 1042 required to be filed for tax years ending on or after December 31, 2023. This means that withholding agents must apply the new electronic filing requirements beginning with Forms 1042 due on or after March 15, 2024.

Challenges to Withholding Agents

Since the final regulations were published, the IRS received feedback from withholding agents noting challenges in transitioning to the procedures needed for filing Forms 1042 electronically. Withholding agents expressed concerns about the limited number of Approved IRS Modernized e-File Business Providers for Form 1042, and difficulties accessing the schema and business rules for filing Form 1042 electronically. Withholding agents that do not rely on modernized e-file business providers said that they needed more time to upgrade their systems for filing on the IRS’s Modernized e-File platform. Agents also noted challenges specific to foreign persons filing Forms 1042 regarding the authentication requirements necessary for accessing the platform.

In response to these concerns, the IRS used its power under the regulations to provide the exemption from the electronic filing requirement for Form 1042, in the interest of effective and efficient tax administration.