I have a PDF of my federal tax form 1040. I want to sign it by adding an image to the PDF, then print it with the signature.

It will look like my signature, but it won't produce an indentation on the page. Is this likely to cause a problem with the IRS?

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    If you are going to print it out and mail it in, why would you rather insert the signature via an image instead of just signing it with a pen after it is printed? – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Jul 22 '17 at 3:36
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    Fountain pens don't indent paper either – user662852 Jul 22 '17 at 13:36
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    legal documents that are submitted in physical form must often bear "true" signature which is loosely defined as you signing it by hand and not using a digital signature because it serves to authenticate the document, so yes they can and often will reject it. When submitting electronically, they use your federal pin and other information to authenticate you, so the "actual" signature is not required per se. This is also not just limited to the IRS and applies to many legal documents. – GµårÐïåñ Jul 22 '17 at 22:42

The Giant Book of How To Do Your Individual Taxes, actually known as Publication 17, has a little bit of guidance in the Signatures section:


You must sign and date your return.

Unable to sign. If the taxpayer is mentally competent but physically unable to sign the return or POA, a valid “signature” is defined under state law. It can be anything that clearly indicates the taxpayer's intent to sign. For example, the taxpayer's “X” with the signatures of two witnesses might be considered a valid signature under a state's law.

That gives us something to go on, in that in some circumstances at least what counts as a signature may depend on your state. I'm not sure why you're asking this question, but if you're asking because signing after printing would be physically challenging for some reason, this indicates that you may want to check your state law (or tell us your state) for some more specific direction.

In general, I would expect that in practice the person processing the return at the IRS just glances quickly to see that there's something reasonable there, and doesn't do much with it other than probably mark in their data processing system that it was signed, and I assume that they either take digital scans of submitted forms and/or store the originals in case there's a question on it. I wouldn't expect it to matter legally whether the signature is with a ballpoint pen, fountain pen, printed, or even in crayon, just that it was a signature the taxpayer produced via his or her own direction with the intent of signing and attesting that your return is complete and accurate to the best of one's knowledge. As long as there's not some sort of fraud involved, it shouldn't be a problem.

The other way to have a digital signature, of course, is to skip the paper entirely and file electronically.

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I managed to find a list of the forms for which the IRS will accept a "facsimile signature":

  • Any form in the 940 series, including Form 940, Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment Tax Return (FUTA); Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return; Form 943, Employers Annual Federal Tax Return for Agricultural Employees; and Form 945, Annual Return of Withholding Federal Income Tax;

  • Form 1042, Annual Withholding Tax Return for U.S. Source Income of Foreign Persons;

  • Form 8027, Employer’s Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips;

  • Form CT-1, Employer’s Annual Railroad Retirement Tax Return; and

  • Any variant of these forms, such as Form 941c, Statement to Correct Information; Form 941-SS, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return.

Seems the 1040-series forms are not on the list, so, at least according to the rules, I must sign by hand.

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