If you are filing an old tax return, then unfortunately, it must be sent to the Internal Revenue Service via paper (versus electronically). As we’ve become accustomed to E-Filing returns, sometimes it seems that the nuances of assembling a paper return have become something of a lost art (even for us practitioners). The IRS processes paper tax returns in a specific manner, but don’t worry about decoding their system. After you’ve finished preparing your return, it will take you just a few minutes (by following the steps below) to have your tax forms organized and ready for mailing/processing.
Check your return for completeness and errors. We recommend reviewing the following:
- All of your personal information (e.g. name, address, etc)
- Be sure your Social Security number is entered correctly
- Ensure only one filing status is checked
- Ensure that an allowable exemption is entered for each dependent you are claiming
- Ensure that you’ve included a daytime phone number
Sign your return. The IRS won’t accept your return for processing unless it’s signed. If you’re married and file a joint return, both of you must sign it. The person whose name appears first on the tax return must sign in the “Your Signature” box, and the spouse listed second signs in the “Spouse’s Signature” box.
Prepare your refund or payment information. If you’re due a refund and want direct deposit, include your bank account information in the “Refund” section above the signature boxes. If you owe taxes, prepare Form 1040-V, the voucher used to make a payment. Just make sure not to staple your payment or voucher to the return.
Gather your tax forms and schedules for assembly. Place your Form 1040 on top and other forms and schedules for your return behind it. On the schedules and forms you’ll notice an “attachment sequence” number in the upper right corner. Use the attachment sequence numbers as your guide, following them in numerical order, starting with the lowest number.
Attach any additional statements that are needed. In some cases, you might need more room to list deductions or report entries on your return. If you prepare an additional statement, write your Social Security number at the top of your statement and note which form the statement is supplementing. You’ll attach your statement behind the related IRS form in your tax return. For example, if you list additional investment expenses on your statement for Schedule A, you’ll write “Additional Statement for Schedule A”, write the line number and amount of expense you’re reporting and attach the statement behind your Schedule A.
Staple all your forms and schedules together in the upper right corner.
Attach W-2 and 1099 income documents. You’ll receive a few copies of each income document that’s mailed to you. Find the federal copy of each form and staple them to the front of your Form 1040 in the income section. Only staple these forms to the first page of your 1040 – do not allow your staple to go through all the forms in your return.
Check this post for information on the addresses where the return should be mailed to.
Processing Times & Refund Status
If you file a complete and accurate paper tax return, your refund will usually be issued within six to eight weeks from the date it is received.
If it hasn’t been received in the time frame outlined above and you are wanting to know the status, feel free to check the Federal or State Where’s My Refund Page(s) outlined in this post. You can also check by calling the IRS Refund Hotline at 800–829–1954. If you use the online tool or call, just be prepared to provide your Social Security number, your filing status and the exact whole dollar amount of the refund shown on your return.