Who Should Sign Your Tax Return?

Well, you should sign, obviously!  So should any tax preparer you paid to fill out the return. But sometimes life gets in the way of that simple solution. 

What if you’re in a hospital bed? What if you’re out of the country on military duty?  What if your son or daughter is too young to sign? (Children can have income and taxes due before they can write, of course.)

Here are a few Internal Revenue Service guidelines passed along by seminar firm TaxSpeaker.

  • Child’s return – Children can turn in their own tax returns and still qualify as dependents on the parent’s form. They generally should sign their own paper returns. If that’s not possible, a parent or guardian can sign with this notation: “By (parent’s signature), parent for minor child.” Filing electronically through a tax preparer makes it somewhat easier. The preparer typically uses a “practitioner PIN,” as IRS says, for security anyway. So, the preparer verifies the child’s identity as usual and makes the filing. Now, children also can submit returns using tax software. But the IRS has an important caution for first timers under age 16. If they never have filed a return, they cannot sign electronically with commercial software. They must file on paper or through a tax preparer.
  • Spouse situations – The other spouse can sign for a taxpayer who is disabled, dealing with a medical emergency, or mentally incompetent. He/she can sign for the disabled spouse in the name space using the words: “By (signature), Husband (or wife).”  The IRS also wants a statement explicitly stating signing permission and the reason for it.
  • Military in combat zone – Likewise, a spouse can sign for a taxpayer who cannot because of military service in a combat zone that is recognized by the IRS. See https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/combat-zones He or she also must attach a signed statement saying that service member is on duty in the zone.
  • Deceased taxpayer – The personal representative (such as an estate executor) for the taxpayer must sign the return. If a joint return is involved, the surviving spouse also must sign.   If there is no personal representative appointed, the spouse may sign the joint return and note in the signature block: “Filing as surviving spouse.”

Signatures for business returns can be more complicated, of course. EricJohn Ltd. owner Eric Buechler, who is an enrolled agent recognized by the IRS, routinely verifies signing permissions in preparing returns. Feel free to contact him about signatures or other tax reporting questions.