Have you ever wondered whether or not you can sign a tax return for someone else? With the tax deadline nearing, let’s find out. Generally it is the responsibility of the taxpayer to sign their tax return, and if a tax return is not signed it is not considered valid by the IRS. But there are instances which you may need to (and can legally) sign for another taxpayer. This includes if the taxpayer is ill, injured, underage, mentally unfit, in a combat zone, or deceased. Let’s take a look at some of the more common circumstances when you are allowed to sign for someone else.

Signing a Tax Return for a Minor

If your child earned enough money to file an income tax return, bravo to them! It is typically their responsibility to file the tax return (this is according to the IRS; I don’t think there are many eleven year olds out there who would know to do this!), but I am sure they are going to need help. If the child cannot sign his or her return, a parent or guardian can sign the child’s name in the space provided at the bottom of the tax return. Be sure to add: “By (signature), parent (or guardian) for minor child.” If you do sign for them on the tax return, you are able to act on behalf of the child with any dealings with the IRS. Also note that if the child does not pay the taxes due, then the parent may be liable.

Signing a Tax Return for Your Spouse

For a tax return filing status to be considered “joint”, both spouses must sign the return.  However, there may be times when this is not possible. The IRS recognizes the following situations:

  • Spouse dies before signing the return
  • Spouse is away from home (in this case you are responsible for procuring their signature)
  • Injury or disease prevents signing
  • You are the guardian of the spouse
  • Spouse is in a combat zone (see Publication ‘3’, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide).

If any of these situations apply, then check out this information for how to sign the return. In general, you would sign your name in the slot for you, and then you would sign your spouse’s name in the proper place followed by the word “by” (your signature), followed by the word “husband” or “wife.” Then you would attach a statement explaining the situation, including the form number of the return you are filing, the tax year, the reason your spouse cannot sign the return, and that your spouse has agreed to your signing for him or her.

If there are other reasons why your spouse cannot sign, you can only sign the tax return for them if you are their Power of Attorney (a legal document giving you permission to act for your spouse). To sign tax return as power of attorney, you would attach the power of attorney (or a copy of it) to your tax return (use Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative).

Signing a Tax Return for a Deceased Person

We discussed signing a joint tax return for a spouse that is deceased, but you may be in charge of signing a tax return form for someone else who is deceased. When doing this, you would write “DECEASED,” the deceased person’s name, and the date of death across the top of the tax return. The spouse, the chosen personal representative, or the person in charge of the deceased person’s property must sign the return. Also, you can check the box “Third Party Designee” so that the IRS can discuss the tax return with the person who signs/prepares it.

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