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Individual Income Tax Guide

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Chapter 8 – Third Party Designee/ Signature

Signature on Return


Form 1040 is not considered a valid return unless you sign it. If you are filing a joint return, your spouse must also sign the return. If your spouse cannot sign the return, see Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information. You must date your return. The IRS requests that you enter your occupation on the form, but it will accept the return for processing if you do not enter it.

If you have someone prepare your return, you are still responsible for the correctness of the return. If a representative signs your return for you, the return is required to have a power of attorney attached that specifically authorizes the representative to sign your return. To do this, you can use Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative (Instructions for Form 2848). If you are filing a joint return as a surviving spouse, see Death of a Taxpayer, later.

Court-Appointed Conservator, Guardian, or Other Fiduciary: If you are a court-appointed conservator, guardian, or other fiduciary for a mentally or physically incompetent individual who has to file Form 1040, sign your name for the individual and file Form 56, Notice Concerning Fiduciary Relationship (Internal Revenue Code Sections 6036 and 6903)(Instructions for Form 56).

Child's Return: If your child cannot sign the return, either parent can sign the child's name in the space provided and enter “By (your signature), parent for minor child.”

Electronic Return Signatures


To file your return electronically, you must sign the return electronically using a personal identification number (PIN). If you are filing online using software, you must use a Self-Select PIN. If you are filing electronically using a tax practitioner, you can use a Self-Select PIN or a Practitioner PIN. You cannot use the Self-Select PIN method if you are a first-time filer under age 16 at the end of the tax year.

Self-Select PIN

The Self-Select PIN method allows you to create your own PIN. If you are married filing jointly, you and your spouse will each need to create a PIN and enter these PINs as your electronic signatures.

What is a PIN: A PIN is any combination of five digits you choose except five zeros. If you use a PIN, you do not have to sign and mail a return and are not required to send the IRS any other forms, including your Forms W-2.

Adjusted Gross Income from 2015 Needed for PIN: To verify your identity, you will be asked to enter your adjusted gross income (AGI) from your originally filed 2015 federal income tax return, if applicable. Do not use your AGI from an amended return (Form 1040X) or a math error correction made by IRS. AGI is the amount shown on Form 1040, line 38; Form 1040A, line 21 or Form 1040EZ, line 4.

How to Get Your 2014 AGI From IRS: If you do not have your 2015 income tax return, call the IRS at 1-800-908-9946 to get a free transcript of your return or visit IRS.gov/transcript.  

Using last’s year’s PIN instead of your AGI: If you filed electronically last year, you may use your prior year PIN to verify your identity instead of your prior year AGI. The prior year PIN is the five digit PIN you used to electronically sign your 2015 return. You will also be prompted to enter your date of birth (DOB).

Practitioner PIN: The Practitioner PIN method allows you to authorize the tax practitioner preparing your return to enter or generate your PIN. The practitioner can provide you with details.

Form 8453:  You must send in a paper Form 8453 U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal for an IRS e-file Return, if you have to attach certain forms or other documents that cannot be electronically filed. For details, see Form 8453.

Identity Protection PIN

For 2016, if you received an IRS notice providing you with an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN), enter it in the IP PIN spaces provided below your daytime phone number. If you did not receive a notice containing an IP PIN, leave these spaces blank.

NOTE: New IP PINs are issued every year. An IP PIN should be used only for the tax year it was issued. IP PINs for 2016 tax returns generally were sent in December 2016.

If you are filing a joint return and both taxpayers receive an IP PIN, only the taxpayer whose social security number (SSN) appears first on the tax return should enter his or her IP PIN. However, if you are filing electronically, both taxpayers must enter their IP PINs.

If you received an IP PIN but misplaced it, call 1-800-908-4490. If you need more information or answers to frequently asked questions on how to use the IP PIN, go to www.irs.gov/Individuals/Understanding-Your-CP01A-Notice.

Paid Preparer Must Sign Your Return

Generally, anyone you pay to prepare your return must sign it and include their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) in the space provided. The preparer must give you a copy of the return for your records. Someone who prepares your return but does not charge you should not sign your return.

Signature Information