Digital IRS W-9 Forms

The more consulting work I do the more I end up scanning and FAXing forms back & forth. The United States’ Internal Revenue Service has done us a big favor and created PDF versions of commonly used forms like the W-9. However, there’s no provision to sign and date them electronically. Here’s what I’ve been doing to avoid having to FAX or scan printed copies:

1. Grab the form you need from the IRS’ “Forms and Publications” index.

2. Sign a blank white piece of paper with a black pen or Sharpie. Take a photo of your signature with your smartphone so you can only see the white background and get it to your PC (mail it to yourself or something).

3. Open the W-9 form in Acrobat Reader and fill it out. Save it with the text in it.

4. Install LibreOffice if you don’t have it. Open the saved PDF in LibreOffice Draw.

5. “Insert > Picture > From file…” and select the signature photo. Resize it into the “Sign here” area of the W-9.

6. “Insert > Fields > Date (fixed)” and move the date it adds to the Date box in the “Sign here” section of the W-9. Resize or change the font size if you want.

7. Print it back to a PDF using CutePDF Writer (which is free and you can get it from the inimitable

The nice thing about this process is that if you need to sign more stuff you can just keep doing it with the signature photo you already have. The downside is that this process will sometimes do goofy things with fonts, but you know, who cares? I’m not the biggest LibreOffice fan but the ability to open PDF documents is nice, and it disregards the Adobe security mechanisms (the IRS has the forms set to prevent editing).

This process also doesn’t use any of the free online PDF editors, which I distrust enough to not want to upload a copy of my signature into.


3 thoughts on “Digital IRS W-9 Forms”

  1. FYI to any contractor that formed an LLC, specifically a single member LLC (SMLLC): The 2011 form requires that you check “Individual/sole proprietor.” This is in contrast to previous forms where you checked “d” for “disregarded entity.” That threw me for a loop last year.

    If you’re doing well for yourself, consider forming an S Corporation, but that’s another blog post…

  2. You can also somewhat edit PDFs in GIMP. It’s good enough to fill in form fields and insert your signature, then resave them. The only pain is it only work 1 page at a time.

  3. You could also just open the file in libreoffice. Export it as a pdf (This will remove the security that does not allow you to sign it. Open the pdf in Adobe and sign.

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