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dscek
Level 3

How to sign a child's California state income tax return?

I'm preparing tax returns to mail in on behalf of my child. I cannot e-file these because it's my child's first return and e-file is not allowed for such returns.

 

I know that on a 1040, I can sign for the child per instructions at https://www.irs.gov/publications/p929#en_US_2019_publink[phone number removed] which states the following:

 

If the child can’t sign his or her return, a parent or guardian must sign the child's name followed by the words "By (signature), parent (or guardian) for minor child."  

 

So I plan to sign for the child as above, and I also plan to put my spouse as the third party designee so either of us has some ability to act on behalf of the child in case there's any issues with the child's return.

 

I know I need to go into Turbotax's Forms mode in order to specify a third party designee since this isn't asked in the step-by-step interview mode. I am using the Turbotax Deluxe CD version.

 

My question is how can i sign for a child on a state tax return? My state is California and I can't find any guidelines for how to sign on behalf of a child for their 540 state return. I tried searching for guidelines on how some other states handle this, but can't find any either.

 

I know on the California 540 return, there's a place to specify a third party designee, but this is only for one person and I would like both my spouse and myself to be able to discuss any issues on the child's return. Can I sign my child's state return using the same 1040 guidelines so that both my spouse and myself are on the return (with one of us being the third party designee)? My child doesn't have the ability to sign.

6 Replies
MaryK1101
Expert Alumni

How to sign a child's California state income tax return?

Yes, you can sign for your minor child in California.

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dscek
Level 3

How to sign a child's California state income tax return?

So I can sign their state return in the same manner as on a 1040 return and have the same legal authority to deal with the California Franchise Tax Board on all matters related to the child's 540 return?

 

Could you point to any official documentation or guidelines that support this?

JohnW222
Expert Alumni

How to sign a child's California state income tax return?

Signing on behalf of your child, as suggested in the IRS instructions, would probably be sufficient for your state return, but you're correct.  California's 2019 540 Forms and Instructions don't have a policy statement similar to, for example, what's in the Responsibility of parent paragraph in the IRS's Publication 17.

However, perhaps filing a Power of Attorney with your child's return will give you the assurance you want. 

The California Form 540 instructions state:

"Power of Attorney.

If another person prepared your tax return, he or she is not automatically granted access to your tax information in future dealings with us. At some point, you may wish to designate someone to act on your behalf in matters related or unrelated to this tax return (e.g., an audit examination). To protect your privacy, you must submit to us a legal document called a “Power of Attorney” (POA) authorizing another person to discuss or receive personal information about your income tax records.

For more information, go to ftb.ca.gov/poa."

And the state's Help with power of attorney page gives guidance on filing a POA for a minor child. 

 

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dscek
Level 3

How to sign a child's California state income tax return?

Thanks for the POA suggestion. I see that the POA can be signed by a guardian, but it seems odd to have a POA signed by a guardian in order to grant the same guardian POA access, which is probably not one of the original intents.

 

For what it's worth, I used the CA FTB's online chat feature and a representative stated the following to me:

 

If a child has to file a tax return but cannot sign the return, the child's parent, guardian, or another legally responsible person must sign the child's name, followed by the words: By (signature), parent (or guardian) for minor child.

 

I'm not sure if this statement is being quoted verbatim from some official document, but it's basically the same guideline that the IRS provides. So I'm going to follow this. Some other friends and family have also given me the same informal advice.

 

I just wish this was stated clearly somewhere in some easily found official document. I could not find anything on this subject from an official or un-official source searching using google. Does anyone know if this matter is stated clearly for any other state's filing instructions?

JotikaT2
Expert Alumni

How to sign a child's California state income tax return?

Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be much guidance on any state websites as well.

 

But since the IRS has issued the guidelines to sign and make the notation that you are signing as a parent of a minor, California should accept it as well.  The IRS is the federal taxing agency and the California return uses the Federal return as a starting point for the state return.

 

Please see the last section of the link below. 

 

Parent's responsibility for filing child's return

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dscek
Level 3

How to sign a child's California state income tax return?

Thanks, so looks like there's no definite answer on this and people just need to infer what to do on this. I'm surprised this question doesn't seem to have been asked before on these forums or anywhere else on the web (as far as I can tell) as I would think it would be a common question. Even that Turbotax article you linked to is in the context of a federal filing and the expectations of the IRS.

 

Anyways, I'm just going to go with the IRS guidelines on how to sign for a child and hope the CA Franchise Tax Board doesn't have any issues with this.

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