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94x E-Filing Common Problems

Greg Hatfield Updated by Greg Hatfield

Some of the most common problems that users encounter when e-filing employment tax returns are listed below under the step in which they would occur.

Step 1 - Submission Files

Problem: You've clicked the Step 1 "Create Files" button to load the Signature screen. When clicking the "Continue" button at the bottom, the program gives a diagnostic message and won't make the file.

Solution: The message typically specifies that some data is missing. The missing data is usually on FORM 941 (or other 94X form), or on the SIGNATURE screen. Read the message to determine where the problem is and what field is being referred to.

Example diagnostic:

"You must correct the following issues ON THIS SCREEN in order to create the submission file.

- Taxpayer's 5-digit PIN must be entered."

This refers to the 8879-EMP Signature screen Taxpayer's 5-digit PIN field. Note that the first sentence specifies ON THIS SCREEN. That is the signature screen.

Example diagnostic:

"A SUBMISSION FILE was NOT made for the following employer due to a data error. Correct the data error on FORM 941 (or the SIGNATURE screen) and create the file again.

- the Paid Preparer Firm Name on the FORM page 2 must be entered."

This refers to the Paid Preparer section on page 2 of Form 941. If a Paid Preparer is entered, then the entire section must be completed. Note that there is a reference to the FORM. That usually means the problem is on the form itself. Issues on the signature screen will reference SIGNATURE screen.

Step 3 - Upload File

Problem: You've logged into IRS MeF but when you click "Transmit Test File", the IRS website says there is no ETIN.

Solution: There are several possibilities.

1) You don't have an ETIN for 94X e-filing. See the Help file for information on submitting or modifying your e-Services application.

2) Your ETIN has already been moved to Production. Check the "Transmit Production File" link to see if your ETIN is listed there. Once it has moved to Production you can submit production files but you can no longer submit test files.

3) You may have chosen the wrong entity when logging in. Typically there may be several entities (Individual, and the Company listed several times). You must always select the correct company option when logging in. Log in again trying a different option to see if the ETIN is listed where you think it should be (Test or Production).

Problem: You've uploaded a file but get an error when the IRS website is doing the initial validation.

Solution: There are several possibilities.

1) You uploaded the wrong file. The TRANSMISSION FILE is the proper file. The name of the file is listed on the Employment Tax Return E-file screen in the Transmission File column. The file path is listed directly below the list of employers. The file always end in .TF (for Transmission File).

2) The IRS website indicates GATEWAY ERROR. This typically is a problem with the browser you are using. Microsoft Internet Explorer and Edge seem to result in a Gateway error most often. The solution is to try a different browser (Firefox or Chrome). Once you find one that works, either make that your default browser (so the program button will launch it), or save a bookmark in the browser to the IRS MeF login screen so you can manually start the browser yourself.

3) The IRS website indicates that the SUBMISSION ID is not globally unique. This means that one (or more) of the submission files in the transmission file have already been submitted. Submission files cannot be submitted successfully more than once. Check acknowledgements to see if one of the employers has already been submitted and accepted. In order to resubmit an employer that was rejected in the acknowledgement, you must RESET the file and create it again so that the submission ID is different.

4) The IRS website indicates that the MESSAGE ID is not globally unique, or some other message. Try submitting the file again. Sometimes file transfer errors occur.

Step 4 - Check ACK File

Problem: You viewed the acknowledgement file on the IRS website but didn't download it. Now when you select "New Acknowledgements" on the website, there aren't any.

Solution: You can select the option to retrieve acknowledgements by Submission ID and enter the Submission IDs into the IRS website box. To aid in that, the CFS program will copy the Submission IDs to the Windows clipboard so they can be pasted into the IRS website. In the Employment Tax Return E-file screen, put a check next to all the employers with Submission files for which you want to get acknowledgement files. Then press and hold CTRL and press C (CTRL+C). This copies the submission ID string to the Windows clipboard. Now go to the IRS website acknowledgement retrieval screen. Put the cursor in the field where the submission IDs should by typed. Press CTRL+V to paste the string into the field. Now retrieve the acknowledgements and download them.

Problem: You downloaded the acknowledgement file but you can't find it.

Solution: Typically, when browsers download files they go to your computer's DOWNLOADS directory by default. In a browse window the Downloads directory can usually be found in the upper left of the list of folders. If your downloads go to a different location, you may be able to determine the location by clicking the Download arrow near the top right of the browser. In Firefox and Chrome, pressing and holding CTRL and pressing J (CTRL+J) opens the default downloads directory. Once you find the directory, look for a file such as "acknowledgementFile.zip". If you have downloaded more the an one acknowledgement file then it may have a number on the file name. The file with the highest number will be the newest acknowledgement file.

Problem: You used the Auto-Read ACK File function to read the acknowledgement file and there were rejections.

Solution: You need to determine what the error(s) are. Click the ACCEPTED DATE column where the word REJECTED is. If there is only one error it will be displayed. Pay attention to the name of the field that has the problem and the value listed for the field. You may be able determine which field in the file is the problem from this information. Call CFS if you cannot determine why the file was rejected.

Example Rejection by Clicking "Rejected" in Accepted Date column:

XML Field Name: PIN

Field Value: 12345

Error Message: The Reporting Agent PIN in the Return Header must match the data in the e-File database.

Solution: Note that this is a typical error when users first begin filing. The REPORTING AGENT PIN is a number assigned by the IRS and mailed to you. It is not a self-assigned number. You must enter the number assigned by the IRS in the Reporting Agent section on the e-file screen.

Other common rejection messages:

Error Message: Submission must not be a duplicate of a previously accepted submission.

Solution: This filing period has already been submitted and accepted for this employer. Determine why you are submitting the return again when it was already accepted. Note: You cannot amend a return by submitting it again.

Error Message: Filer's EIN and Name Control in the Return Header must match data in the e-File database.

Solution: The IRS maintains a database of EIN/Name Control combinations and this employer was not found in the database. Determine if the EIN is entered correctly. Determine if the Name Control is entered correctly. If you are a Reporting Agent, check the list of Name Controls for each of your clients that was faxed to you by the IRS.

Problem: There is more than one error for an employer in the acknowledgement file and you need to look at the file to determine what the errors are.

Solution: Use the View ACK File button to navigate to the file and view it. See the Help topic on acknowledgement file structure which explains how to interpret the file.

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941 E-Filing Module Overview

94x E-Filing Step 1: Create Submission Files

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