What Happens If a Tax Return Is Not Signed?

The Internal Revenue Service processes millions of tax returns each year. One mistake taxpayers make is failing to sign their tax returns. A taxpayer who has forgotten to sign her return will experience a delay in return processing but will be given an opportunity to correct the error.

Validating Form 1040

The IRS does not consider a taxpayer’s Form 1040 to be a valid return unless it is signed. If it is a joint return, both spouses must sign it. The IRS will not process a return that is not properly signed because it will be considered invalid.

Spouse Unable to Sign

A married taxpayer filing a joint return may need his spouse to sign the return if he has a medical condition that prevents him from signing. The signing taxpayer should sign her spouse’s name followed by the word “by,” then her own signature, followed by the word “wife” (or “husband,” if the situation is reversed). The return must include a statement with the form number, the tax year, assurance that the nonsigning spouse has agreed to the signing spouse’s signing in his place and the condition preventing the nonsigning spouse from signing. A married taxpayer who cannot sign for reasons other than medical reasons may grant his spouse a power of attorney. The power of attorney would give the signing spouse authority to sign the return. If your spouse passed away during the tax year, you should sign for the deceased spouse and immediately follow the signature by writing the phrase “filing as surviving spouse.”

Child Unable to Sign

The parent or guardian may sign the tax return of a minor child who is unable to sign. The parent or guardian should sign the child’s name followed by the word “by,” then by the parent or guardian’s signature and finally indicate the relationship of the parent to the child.

Unsigned Tax Returns

If a taxpayer has failed to sign a tax return, the IRS will send the taxpayer a notice that the return was not signed. The notice may have a place for the tax payer to sign, in lieu of signing the tax return. The return will not be processed until after the notice or the return has been signed.