Bulk Filing Frequently Asked Questions
Q. When was Iowa Sales Tax eFile & Pay implemented?
Sales tax eFile & Pay was implemented in July 2005. Record layouts were available in May 2005.
Registering to Become a Bulk Filer
Q. What is the first step if I want to become a bulk filer?
The first step is to complete an eFile & Pay Application to Become a Bulk Filer. The Iowa Department of Revenue will register the applicant as a service provider and mail relevant information.
Q. What are the advantages of registering to become a bulk filer?
The main advantage is you do NOT have to sign on under each individual client’s BEN (Business eFile Number) to set up each person's profile, assign passwords, etc. All returns and payments for your clients are generated using your BEN. An additional advantage is that multiple returns may be sent in one file.
Obtaining and Using Clients' Business eFile Numbers (BEN)
Q. Will employers need to complete an application to be assigned a BEN?
Existing Iowa withholding agents were mailed BENs. New withholding agents will receive their BENs when they register. To register to become an Iowa withholding agent, complete the online Iowa Business Tax Registration Form. This is also available on paper (pdf).
Q. Do I need to obtain my client’s BEN?
Yes, you will need your client’s BEN to file on your client’s behalf.
Q. What if my client has lost his/her BEN?
You can contact Taxpayer Services with the client’s Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) and the Department can provide you with your client’s BEN.
If you need BENs for more than 50 clients, you may submit a file of your clients to the Department’s Revenue Operations Division. The Department will return the registration status, BEN, and filing frequency for each registered client. See our information on the required file format and submission process.
Note: A current Power of Attorney form (pdf) must be on file with the Department for the person in your company who is requesting the client’s BEN.
Q. What if my client was never issued a BEN?
BENs were issued to active withholding permit holders. It is possible that your client’s withholding permit has been canceled or that your client is not currently registered for an Iowa withholding permit.
Q. Will service providers have access to client data such as BENs online?
No. Client BENs can only be obtained from the Department as explained above. BENs can always be obtained by contacting clients.
Q. How soon should employers and service providers expect to obtain their BEN after applications are filed?
Application processing and BEN issuance could take as long as 30 days. That is why it is important for new employers to register as soon as possible.
Q. Is there a "default" BEN that could be used until the valid BEN is available?
Q. Is the BEN an amendable field? Will it ever change?
Once the BEN is assigned, it will not change.
Clients' Withholding Agent and Bank Numbers
Q. What should be put in the client permit number field if no 3-digit suffix is added? Are zeroes or blanks valid?
All taxpayers have been issued a 12-digit Iowa withholding permit number which typically is their FEIN and a 3-digit suffix for the location they are filing from. If they do not know their permit number, they should contact the Department to obtain it. The 3-digit suffix is 001 or greater. You may default to 001, but if this does not match Department files, the transaction will be rejected.
Q. Will I need my client’s bank routing number and bank account number?
Yes. If your client is making an electronic payment, you will need your client’s bank routing number, bank account number, and account type (checking or savings).
Filing For Your Clients
Q. After signing on to the eFile & Pay system, how do I file for my clients?
After you register to become a bulk filer and your application has been processed, you will notice new administrative functions on the Main Menu. You will see options to “File for Your Clients” and “Cancel a Payment for Your Clients.” See the Summary of Instructions for Bulk Filers.
Q. What methods are available for service providers to electronically file for their clients?
Once you choose the option to “File for Your Clients,” you will be taken to the Third Party Main Menu.
You can file for one client at a time by using the top section of the Third Party Main Menu.
You can create a document in Notepad, Word, TextPad, Excel, or whatever type of software you have that can create a fixed-file format or string-delimited file.
Your file will be set up using the file layout required for the filing frequency.
Q. Does the transaction layout require both the service provider BEN and the BEN for each taxpayer?
Q. What does the field "Return Type" mean?
Valid options in the Return Type field are “O” for an original return and “A” for an amended return.
Q. If a service provider uses a software package to determine the proper tax due, must that software be certified?
No software certification is required or offered.
Q. Semi-monthly and monthly filers using the "old" EFT system did not file quarterly returns. Are all employers now required to submit quarterly returns?
Yes. All taxpayers with semi-monthly, monthly, or quarterly filing frequencies must submit a quarterly return through eFile & Pay.
Q. For the Quarter Reconciliation -- Is it required for all filers (semi-monthly, monthly and quarterly) or is it just done to reconcile quarterly filers?
The quarterly return is required for all filer types except annual filers.
Q. Are zero returns required to be filed?
Yes. There should be an e-filing for every period – even if they had zero withholding.
Q. Will the return show an amount due if I am not making a payment?
Yes, even if the payment amount is zero.
Q. What is considered "timely" with regard to mailing a check for payment and e-filing the return?
Both the return and the payment are due on or before the due date. Electronic payment transactions must be submitted prior to 4 p.m. on the due date in order to be considered timely. Paper payments must be postmarked on or before the due date. If the due date falls on a weekend, federal holiday, or legal holiday as defined in Iowa Code section 4.1(34), the due date is the next business day.
Q. What is the ramification to Iowa employers for whom a timely deposit was made, but the return is remitted after the due date?
When an e-filed return is rejected, any e-payment made with the return will also be rejected. If payment is made through other methods, those payments will most likely be accepted, but will need resolution because the employer is not registered. The Department is working on a solution which will mitigate the problem of unregistered accounts, but will not totally eliminate it.
Q. Will there be any type of “grace period” for the turnaround time on corrections/resubmissions?
Since transactions must be submitted on or before the due date, all corrections must be made and submitted by the due date.
Q. Will there be any level edits other than for invalid or unregistered accounts? How will errors be treated? Are there tolerances for acceptable errors?
The eFile & Pay Website includes a list of error codes and a detailed explanation of the edits invoked. Any records in error will be rejected. There are no tolerances.
Q. For tax periods prior to implementation of eFile & Pay, what should be done if a notice for a missing filing has been received?
eFile & Pay allows you to file original and amended returns for the prior three years.
Q. If I have one additional client to submit a return for, should I submit a bulk file?
You may submit a bulk file with one transaction or you may use the online key and send filing option.
Q. How much time do I need to plan for if I want to check the results of the bulk e-file before submitting payments separately? How quickly will results be available after submission of the bulk file?
If you are not submitting an ePayment with the e-filed deposit or return, you will want to make sure the deposit/return is not rejected prior to sending payment. The payment may not be applied appropriately to the taxpayer's account. The time it takes to submit your file to the host system depends on the size of your file and the speed of the Internet connection. In general, the file should be uploaded within five minutes. The actual time it takes to process the file will depend on the type of data and availability of the host batch processing system. You will see the progress of your file including the percentage complete.
Q. What are the payment options?
To pay by direct debit, choose ePay. You may also pay by credit card and by ACH Credit. A link to credit card payment is available within eFile & Pay. To pay by ACH Credit, you must first contact your bank for further information about their ACH Credit payment services and cost. Then, open, review, and follow our required ACH Credit Payment Instructions (pdf). You may share these instructions with your bank.
Q. What is the process if we are making a late payment? Do we submit it like a regular payment?
Yes. The filing process is the same for late returns and payments as it is for timely returns and payments.
Q. If we need to make an additional payment for the same period, how does it reconcile? Do we file an additional coupon with payment and the amount will add to the original coupon filed? Or is there a separate process?
You will file as return type “A” with amended deposit or return information. The payment amount should match the actual payment with the amended transaction. Our programs process all transactions for the tax period when calculating the quarterly return.
Q. Can payments be submitted via paper? Is a voucher required?
The best method for submitting payments is to ePay through eFile & Pay. This ensures the payment is applied to the correct filing. A paper payment may be submitted after the e-file submission by using a scannable voucher provided by the Department.
Note: Semi-monthly filers are required to pay electronically.
Q. To ePay through the Batch Loader application, is pre-validation of the routing/transit numbers required?
There is no pre-validation of bank information.
Q. If we are rounding payment amounts (no decimal) on the return, should we round the payment to match?
The payment amount can be in dollars and cents. It can be smaller, the same, or larger than the return indicates is due.
Q. If we are submitting payment through ACH Credit or paper check, what do we put in the bank information fields?
If you are not submitting an e-payment with the e-file, the bank information fields (routing, account, type) should be left blank.
About Bulk Layout Screens
Q. What are valid options in the Payment Method field?
Valid options are:
“Z” for a return with zero dollars due
“E” for an ACH Debit or electronic payment to be made with the return
“M” for mailing a check
“A” for an ACH Credit or credit card payment to be made separately
“C” for credit carryforward
“R” for refund
Q. Can I add my own field for a client’s name or some other information?
Yes. On the Bulk Withholding File Layout screen, you check the box in front of “Add Filler” at the bottom of the screen. You can indicate the position where you want the filler field. For example, if you want your client’s name to appear first prior to his/her BEN, you indicate position 1. You set up your Notepad or Word document file including your client’s name in the first field.
Q. Will the filler field be verified?
No. The filler field is just as it states; it is just filler. The system will verify your file of information from left to right on the other fields and will ignore the filler field.
Q. What would a Notepad document look like?
An example of a Notepad document set up for semi-monthly filers is provided following these questions and answers. Note: This is set up as a sample comma-delimited file; “comma-delimited” meaning the commas are separating the variable information in the file.
Q. What are the available delimiters?
Available delimiters are commas, semi-colons, pipes, or tabs.
Q. Should I use dollars and cents in setting up my Notepad or Word document?
All dollar fields should be whole dollars only, with the exception of the following fields that can be defined as dollars only (no implied decimal) or dollars and cents (implied decimal). For both semi-monthly/monthly and quarterly/annual screens, those fields are Penalty, Interest, Total Amount Due, and Payment Amount. If cents are defined, it is recommended that they are defined to two decimal places.
Q. When can I test withholding tax?
You can already begin testing your file formats for withholding through the existing Web application (click on Demo mode after login). The DWI test performs the same checks that the Batch Loader will. The file configuration process is the same for DWI and Batch Loader.
Q. Will you provide a separate test address/ environment?
No. Please use the DWI Demo mode to test your files.
Q. To what level of detail can files be tested? Will edits and acknowledgments be tested?
You may test using the existing DWI process in Demo mode. The only difference between DWI and Batch Loader is the actual transmission process. The file configuration, file format and edit process are the same. File configuration and data edit checks are run in Demo mode and results are provided.
Q. How is the bulk file transmitted to the Department of Revenue?
After the file is set up, you will have two different options on how to transmit the withholding file to the Department of Revenue. You can use Dynamic Web Import (DWI) using the Microsoft browser to upload a file while remaining on the eFile & Pay application site. From the Bulk Withholding Processing Menu, you choose Send File Now.
The other option is to use Batch Loader. Batch Loader is totally independent of the Internet application. It runs strictly on your Desktop PC and sends the file through the Internet. With Batch Loader you configure your filing frequency types using eFile & Pay. From the Bulk Withholding Processing Menu, you choose Save Configuration for Batch Send.
When the bulk filer submits a data file through DWI or the Batch Loader tool, the transfer of data is across 128 bit SSL. The results are sent back through the same SSL. The state is retrieving files from the Web server running FSecure secure FTP. The encryption level is AES-128 bit. There are no VPN connections being used. However, the files are encrypted using PGP and the server is accessed with port forwarding. Bulk filers will not use this method to supply the system with files.
The transmission specifications for DWI (Dynamic Web Import) are currently available. Information on the Batch Loader Method of bulk filing is available in the Batch Loader user documentation (pdf). Both transmission methods allow for the submission of an ASCII text file in a user defined configuration which is transmitted through SSL to the Department's Web server.
Q: Would it be a good idea to set up a small file first to see if the file passes the basic edits?
Yes. Once a file is selected and uploaded, it goes through a two-step process. It performs some basic edits on the first 10 records in a file. You can run your file through Demo. Demo performs the same checks as the live transmission process. This will assist you in determining if the file’s field sequence is the same as what was defined and if your fields are formatted properly.
Q. Is it acceptable to modify the EFT Addenda record to include the data elements required by the Department rather than developing a new return?
This is not an option. We are not set up to process addenda records.
Q. What are the standards bulk filers need to follow to differentiate between various incoming/outgoing files (acknowledgments, warnings)?
Bulk filers may use their own naming standards for data files to be transmitted to the Department. Once transmission is complete, results may be saved using the bulk filer naming standards. Results through either DWI or Batch Loader allow for saving results for all records transmitted and/or separately saving files for accepted or failed records.
Q. What is the maximum file size that the agency will be able to accommodate?
Q. Will multiple files sent simultaneously be accepted?
Service providers need not worry about issues such as this as long as each file does not exceed the maximum size. However, if multiple files are sent, they will be processed sequentially. Once the first file is completed, the next one will start.
Q. Is it possible to initiate all the "send/receive" with Iowa using FTP and PGP?
All that is needed is the normal site, security profile, exchange PGP public key, and the details of the transaction(s). You will need to initiate sending your file through the methods available, either the Direct Web Interface (DWI) or the Batch Loader tool.
Q. How will encryption be performed through the file exchange?
There is no FTP and therefore, no encryption. All transmissions are sent via SSL.
Q. Does software require port forwarding?
No port forwarding is required.
Q. Does the bulk filer need to open Internet firewall to support the ephemeral ports?
Port 443, which is a standard for SSL, is used.
Q. Are there any active/passive considerations?
Q. What file naming conventions have you set up?
You determine your own file naming conventions for the files you send. It is important to place the transmission files in a folder that is accessible to the user submitting the job through the Batch Loader tool.
Q. For batch load and DWI transactions, will the confirmation number be at the transaction level or file level?
A unique confirmation number is provided for each transaction filed. ePayments will carry a different confirmation number than the corresponding return, even if payment was made at the time the return was filed.
Q. How long will it take for the confirmation number to be received?
Once the file is sent, it is processed and results are sent back. The amount of time depends on the number of records and will vary from a few minutes to an hour.
Q. How long will acknowledgments be stored out on the Department's Website?
The results obtained from using the Batch Loader tool will remain on the Website for 30 days. You may save any results for your use for as long as you like. The full file results obtained through DWI are available only while initially displayed upon completion of the transmission. You may save the results for your use. You may look up e-file information for individual clients at any time.
Batch Loader Tool Information
Q. How do I access the Batch Loader Tool?
The Batch Loader tool can be accessed from the eFile & Pay site once you have signed on with your BEN, choosing File for Your Clients and then choosing the filing frequency. You will define your file types and field layouts, and save the configuration for each filing frequency. From that screen, you will notice a link at the bottom of the page to “Click here to download the Batch Upload Tool.” You only need to do this once. Once you have it installed and all your filing frequency field layouts are configured and saved, you will not have to access the eFile & Pay site for the transmission of your files. You will simply click on the Batch Loader icon from your Desktop to add jobs, view, save results, etc.
More information regarding Batch Loader (pdf) is available.
Q. Do I need to save my configured files for Batch Loader as a certain file type?
Yes, you will save your configured files as follows: Save as type: ALL FILES.
Q. Once configured files have been saved, what is the file extension on my configured files?
Your file will show whatever name you chose for the configured file followed by the extension “.dwiconfig.”
SAMPLE OF A WORD DOCUMENT
COMMA DELIMITED FILE WITH 3 SAMPLE CLIENT RECORDS
Client’s Business eFile Number, Permit Number, Period End Date, Withholding This period, Less Credits, Balance Due, Penalty, Interest, Total Amount Due, Payment Amount, Payment Date, Payment Method, Bank Account Type, Bank Routing Number, Bank Account Number
(When defining this file type above, you would tell the system to skip the first line, as you do not want it to read your heading information. You would also define this as a delimited file with the field delimiter as a comma and no string qualifiers.)