Details have begun to emerge about electronic filing (e-filing) of Forms 1094 and 1095 information returns required under the ACA’s shared-responsibility (or “play or pay”) provision. (See main article.) Mandatory filings are required in the first quarter of 2016, with e-filing generally required if a filer must submit at least 250 information returns.

Much of the detail about e-filing is being generated by an IRS working group called the ACA Information Returns (AIR) and posted on a webpage dedicated to the AIR program. Here are some highlights:

Draft Publication 5165. This is a detailed guide for e-filing of Forms 1094 and 1095. The publication explains how various entities will apply for access to the AIR system and identify themselves when using the system. These entities include:

Issuers (the IRS term for reporting entities),
Software developers (entities writing origination or transmission software according to IRS specifications), and
Transmitters (third parties filing information returns on behalf of reporting entities).
Technical details are provided surrounding the formatting of electronic documents, permitted ways to transmit information to the IRS, potential transmission errors, and how to make corrections.

Draft Publication 5164. This explains the process — including who must test, what must be tested and when — for software and electronic transmissions before users are accepted into the AIR system. It also provides testing guidelines for software developers.

AIR presentation. This separate presentation elaborates on the information provided in the publication, noting that AIR system testing will begin in July and voluntary filing of 2014 returns will be permitted starting in October. A significant portion of the presentation is devoted to describing the process for filing corrected returns.

Another extensive section of the presentation addresses questions and answers on topics such as error reporting, software testing and the electronic interface with the IRS. Also discussed are electronic signatures, including a mention of signature requirements being waived for voluntary filings made in 2015.

The AIR system will be used only for Form 1094 and 1095 filings. E-filing of all other IRS information returns is done through the Filing Information Returns Electronically (FIRE) system.