Taxes can be challenging for different reasons, and some people could use a little extra help. You might file a tax return for someone else if you have:
- A dependent with earned income
- A deceased family member
- Aging parents
- A friend or relative who doesn’t speak English
Is it legal to file a tax return for someone else?
The IRS says you can file a tax return for someone else as long you have their permission to do so. Here are a few important things to know before you begin offering your services to others:
- You can file tax returns electronically for up to five people.
- The taxpayer will be held responsible if anything is incorrect.
- As a non-professional, you are not allowed to charge a fee for preparing tax returns.*
*If someone is paying you to file their tax return, you will need to apply for a PTIN and use our professional software, TaxSlayer Pro.
Who can legally file taxes for someone else?
An authorized third party can file taxes on behalf of another person. The three types of third-party authorizations include:
- Power of Attorney – An authorized power of attorney is legally responsible for managing a person’s medical and financial affairs.
- Tax Information Authorization – A tax information authorization lets you appoint a designee to review your tax information for the tax years you specify.
- Third-Party Designee – This person can communicate with the IRS on your behalf.
Learn more about authorized third parties at the IRS website.
How do I get permission to file taxes for someone else?
You can get permission to file taxes for someone else with their verbal consent. If you’d like to go the extra mile and have written documentation of the exchange, you can draw up a contract for the two of you to sign. Be sure to keep this document for your records.
How to file taxes for someone else using TaxSlayer
- Create a new user account. You will need a separate TaxSlayer account for each return you file. Let’s say you are filing a return for yourself and a return for your cousin. First, you will have a TaxSlayer account with a username and password for your own taxes. Then, you will need to create a second account for your cousin with their own username and password.
- Enter the person’s tax identification number. Be sure that you have correctly entered the taxpayer’s legal name, birth date, and Social Security number. If they don’t have an SSN, you will enter their ITIN instead. What’s an ITIN?
- Follow the step-by-step instructions. You can be guided through the entire tax filing process. You will enter all their basic information and income. TaxSlayer will help you find all the credits and deductions they are eligible to take.
- Submit the return. We’ll notify you once the IRS accepts the return. Your work is most likely done at this point. If the taxpayer is owed a refund, they will receive it in the form you selected (direct deposit or mailed check).
Is the taxpayer deceased? Here’s how to prepare a tax return for a deceased taxpayer.
What you need to file taxes for someone else
Everybody’s tax situation is different. In addition to personal details like name, birth date, and tax ID number, ask the individual if they have any of these things:
- Income and investment information
- Self-employment and business records
- Medical expense receipts and records
- Homeowner information
Need more details? See this complete checklist of items you’ll want to have on hand. Use it as a guide for yourself and for anyone else you are assisting.
How do you know if your family member needs to file a return?
If you have any doubt that your relative needs to file a return, you can simply check the federal filing requirements on the IRS website.
If your family member lives in your home and they are elderly, underage, or they have a disability, then they might actually qualify as your dependent. In this case, you could claim them on your own return.
Understand the rules for claiming dependents to make sure that you and your family are getting all the benefits you deserve.
Can I claim a refund on behalf of someone else?
While you can file a tax return for someone else, you can’t collect their tax refund. If you do, this is considered tax fraud, and there may be legal consequences for collecting someone else’s tax refund.
What is the penalty for filing taxes for someone else without their consent?
Filing taxes for someone without their consent is considered identity theft. But unlike underpaying or neglecting to pay taxes, identity theft is a serious offense, and its consequences may go beyond paying a fine. In most cases, legal action will be taken against you for committing identity theft.
According to the Department of Justice, you could face up to 15 years in prison, depending on the severity of the crime. To find out how to prevent identity theft before it happens, read Tax Identity Theft: How It Happens and Ways to Prevent It.