Encrypting a client document before sending it via email or another file sharing mechanism provides an extra layer of security and helps ensure that only the intended recipient will be able to view the document. Adding a layer of password protected encryption is even more important when sending documents that contain sensitive, private information. IRS Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data: A Guide For Your Business, notes: “If you must transmit sensitive data by email over the Internet, be sure to encrypt the data.”
Keystone Tax Solutions Pro Premium users can use PaperCut to securely send encrypted tax documents to their clients without leaving Keystone Tax Solutions Pro. If you use the Classic version of Keystone Tax Solutions Pro, you can also encrypt tax documents using a file archiving tool called 7-Zip. It’s free for both individual and commercial use.
View the “7-Zip Attachment” video below for a demonstration of how to use 7-Zip to encrypt and password-protect a document. After following this procedure, you can send the document to your client via email and send the password in a separate manner, such as by phone or text. Sending the document and password in separate communication channels ensures that compromising one account doesn’t result in the attacker gaining access to the document you provided the client.
Note: These instructions assume you are using Microsoft Windows 8 or 10.
7-Zip is available for download here. At the top of the Download page you will download the “.exe” file for either “7-Zip for 32-bit Windows” or “7-Zip for 64-bit Windows x64”. If you know your Windows system type is 64-bit, select the 64-bit “.exe” Download link, otherwise select the 32-bit Download link.
Open the file that downloaded and click Install. When it finishes installing, click Close.
Follow these instructions to encrypt a document:
- In Windows, locate the document you wish to encrypt and send. For example, if you printed a tax return to PDF and saved a copy to a folder called “Tax Returns” on the C Drive, open a Windows File Explorer window and navigate to
- This PC (Windows 10) or Computer (Windows 8)
- C: drive
- Tax Returns
- Right-click the document that you would like to encrypt. (If you have multiple documents to send, you can also put all of them into their own folder and right-click the folder.)
- Select 7-Zip from the menu.
- Select Add to Archive.
- In the Add to Archive window, note at the top the file name that will be created as well as the path to the file. Change the file name if desired.
- Ensure the Archive format dropdown is set to “zip”.
- Under Encryption, enter a password into the Enter and Reenter password boxes.
Optional: Click the “Show password” check box to double-check the password you entered.
- Select OK. The encrypted file will be created and given the file name previously indicated along with a “.zip” extension.
The file is now ready to be sent to your client. If using email, attach this file to the message you are sending your client, then call or text the client to provide the password.
If you would like to check your work to verify the file encryption was successful, do the following:
- Double-click the zip file to open it.
- Double-click the file (or folder) within. You should be queried for the password.
- Enter the password. A correct password should open the document, and an incorrect password should fail to open the document.