What Documents Should Be Attached to Your Tax Return If Paper Filing?

What Documents Should Be Attached to Your Tax Return If Paper Filing?
••• Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images

The Internal Revenue Service requires you to submit most forms and schedules used to prepare paper returns. There are required Form 1040 attachments, but it is not necessary to send all documents used in your preparation. Although the tax information you receive each year and the forms and items you use to calculate your return all appear to be things you should attach, there are a few key things to look for that will help you determine what needs to be attached to your paper return, and what can simply be kept with your own personal tax records.


  • If you are filing your taxes using a paper return, you must attach a copy of each W-2 you received alongside all 1099s delivered to you. Additional forms, such as Schedule C or Schedule A, must also be attached as needed.

W-2 and Income Forms

When you file a tax return electronically, an electronic copy of your W-2 and other income forms, such as 1099s, is created. These electronic versions of your income forms are transmitted with your return to the IRS. Since alternate versions of your income forms are not created when you send a paper return, you must attach copies of your physical W-2s and 1099s to the front page of your 1040 form. Although you may receive multiple forms at the end of the year to help prepare your return, you only need to attach forms that show types of income you received. It is not necessary to attach copies of other forms that show payments you made, such as 1098 forms you receive for mortgage or student loan interest you paid.

Attaching Schedules

In some cases, your income tax return may require more forms or schedules than the 1040 form. For example, if you itemize deductions, you’ll need to complete IRS form Schedule A. If you’re self-employed, you’ll complete IRS form Schedule C. You’ll need to attach any IRS form or schedule used to prepare your return to your 1040 form before mailing your tax return off. All the forms and schedules used in preparation create your entire return, and the IRS needs these in order to process your tax return and the items you report. Forms and schedules that must be attached have an “Attachment Sequence” number in the upper right corner of the form. Attach your forms in numerical sequence order behind your 1040 form.

Receipts and Proof of Expenses

The IRS does not require taxpayers to attach receipts or proof of expense payments claimed on tax returns, but you must hold onto receipts and copies of any other items used to prepare your return, and keep them handy. In the event a return you file is selected for an audit, you’ll need to show proof of your expenses to your examiner, or items you claimed could be disallowed.

Keep for Your Records

Some IRS forms and worksheets you use to prepare your return do not need to be attached when you send a paper return in. Although all IRS forms used may look “official” and appear to be items that need to be attached, if you see “Keep for Your Records” printed on the form, it should not be sent with your return. As with receipts you use to calculate deductions and credits, IRS forms you use but do not need attach should be kept with your records for the year.