How to File a Tax Return for an Incompetent Person

You need to make sure you have the legal right to sign an incompetent person's return prior to submitting it.
••• tax forms image by Chad McDermott from

If you need to file a tax return for an incompetent person, you'll need to take a number of considerations into account before you begin. For example, you may only sign a person's name if you are legally authorized to do so. You must be his or her spouse and/or legal guardian (see References 1). No matter your situation, you need determine which form or forms to use and the source or sources of the person's income.

Step 1

Determine the source of the incompetent person's income. Is he or she the beneficiary of a trust or estate? Alternatively, does he or she receive Social Security benefits or a disability pension? The form or forms you'll need to use will vary depending on how the incompetent person supports him or herself financially, so it's essential to ascertain this prior to beginning. Veteran's Benefits, as per the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) publication 907, are not taxable (see References 3).

Step 2

Complete the appropriate tax form just as you would your own. If the incompetent person receives Social Security benefits or a disability pension, for example, you'll file using the standard form 1040a, as per schedules in the addendum. On the other hand, if he or she is the beneficiary of an estate or trust, you'll need to fill out form 1041. Both of these forms are available in .pdf format in the Resources section.

Step 3

Sign the form, if possible. According to IRS Tax Topic 301, you may only sign a form on a person's behalf if you are his or her spouse and/or guardian. If you are a person's guardian but not his or her spouse, you must hold a valid power of attorney in order to sign. In order to establish power of attorney with the IRS, you must submit form 2848, available in Resources. If you do not meet these requirements, you must locate the person's guardian or spouse and have him or her sign the form.

Step 4

Submit the form via U.S. mail. Although you may fill out the form listed in Resources using Adobe Reader and then print it, you may not e-file a return for an incompetent person (see References 2).

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