For many, filing taxes is another one of those dreaded, inescapable civic duties. However, there are those rare individuals out there with a high level of financial literacy that don’t mind having to file a quick return every once in a while. If you’re fortunate enough to be one of those tax-astute individuals, you may find yourself bombarded by friends or family members when tax season rolls around.
Beyond mere tax advice, you’re probably left wondering, “can I do someone else’s taxes?”. If you’re not a professional, you may be wary about handling another person’s annual tax return, but it’s perfectly legal in the eyes of the IRS. In fact, you can be a trusted helper for up to five people.
Long answer short, with the taxpayer’s permission, you absolutely can take on the responsibility of filing taxes for someone else. However, it is important that both parties are aware that it’s the taxpayer who is ultimately responsible for any mistakes made on the return. In other words, the preparer is not penalized for errors he or she may have made, the person whose taxes were prepared is.
Why Would I Need Help From Someone Else on My Taxes?
Let’s say you’re on the opposite end and seeking tax assistance from someone you trust. Whether you simply need a helping hand from someone who has a more comprehensive grasp on U.S. tax code, or have recently become responsible for filing on behalf of dependent children or a late family member, there are multiple different situations where you’d find yourself either doing someone else’s taxes or having someone else complete yours.
While there are those who enjoy a good DIY tax preparation venture, the vast majority of taxpayers would rather outsource the heavy-lifting to someone far more qualified to accurately complete the entirety of your return. If you’re at all concerned about making any grave mistakes that could lead to an audit, it’s likely in your best interest to let someone else do the work.
How to File Someone Else’s Taxes
According to the IRS, you can file someone else’s taxes so long as you have their expressed permission. However, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind before officially offering your services:
- You may only file tax returns electronically for up to five taxpayers
- The taxpayer will be held wholly responsible if any information is incorrect on the return
- As a non-professional tax preparer, you are not authorized to charge a fee for filing someone else’s tax return
Because everybody’s tax situation is different, you’ll need to collect specific documents per each individual case. Like any tax return, you’ll need personal credentials like name, birth date, and tax ID number, and you’ll need to ask the individual if they have any of the following:
- Medical expense records
- Charitable donation receipts
- Homeowner information
- Income and investment records
- Self-employment and business documents
If you’ve taken the time to help another person with their taxes, it may be in the taxpayer’s best interest to list your name in the “Third Party Designee” area on the return located just above the signature box. This makes it so that you have the ability to speak with the IRS regarding the return you have filed on behalf of another.
Filing for a Dependent
If your child is a dependent and has income from a job or investments, depending on the amount owed, he or she may be required to file a tax return. In this scenario, parents are required to file their child’s tax return if the child does not understand the process. If the child’s income does not reach the mandatory level, he or she may still be eligible for an income tax return.
Filing On Behalf of a Late Family Member
In the case that a family member has passed away, unfortunately, taxes still need to be filed. Customarily the executor or estate administrator deals with it. In the case that no overseer was specific, another family member is required to file the taxes.
A federal income tax return for a deceased person is filed on Form 1040. If you are serving as the executor, you will need to sign the form yourself in your capacity as the estate representative. If you’re the surviving spouse of the deceased and file a joint return, you will also need to sign it yourself, and add “filing as surviving spouse.”
If you are not the executor, and an official executor is appointed before the return due date, be sure to have them sign off on the return, too. In the event that there is no surviving spouse and no executor has been appointed by the court, the person who has taken charge of the deceased person’s property will sign the tax return as the “personal representative.”
When to Involve a Professional
If you are someone who has been enlisted by another to help file their tax returns, you should seek professional assistance whenever you’re unsure of how to calculate or file any element of the return in question. Taxes can be tricky, especially when the information required is outside of your scope of knowledge. Ultimately, you want to be sure you’re truly doing someone a favor rather than a disservice—any errors you make will come back to them rather than you.
In the case that you received help from a non-professional preparer and they made grave errors on the return, which results in an IRS audit, it’s important to know that tax professionals are the only ones that are permitted to help. Lawyers, Certified Public Accountants, or enrolled agents are called upon in such situations. The preparer can be made eligible for this only by passing an IRS test or be a former IRS employee.
Can Someone Else Pay My Taxes?
Having someone else pay your taxes can make things difficult because the government counts the amount that person pays as taxable income. The easy answer is yes, someone else can pay your taxes, but you should take all necessary legal precautions to ensure your actions are perfectly aligned with the law.
If you’re paying for someone’s taxes via card, you will need to use their social security number when making the payment.