This Technical Information Release ("TIR") sets out the Department of Revenue ("Department") requirements for acceptable reproduced copies of tax returns and supporting schedules for filing. It discusses what forms computerized tax processors, commercial printers and others who wish to provide facsimile copies of official Department forms may reproduce and how they may reproduce them.

I. General rules

Subject to the conditions and specifications set out in the two following sections, the Department will accept reproduced copies of Department tax forms for filing. In general, practitioners (which term, for purposes of this TIR, includes taxpayers and anyone designing and printing a return or related schedule for filing with the Department) may reproduce most Department forms as long as they meet the requirements in sections II and III this TIR; special rules, set out in section IV, apply to certain withholding, meals tax, sales tax, and room occupancy forms and to individual and corporate estimated tax forms.

Section II sets out general specifications and conditions for reproducing Department forms. Section III details the additional requirements that a practitioner must meet in creating a computer-prepared reproduction. Practitioners need not obtain prior approval from the Department before using reproductions that meet the specifications of sections II and III.

In section IV, the TIR explains the limitations on reproducing form that the Department has designed to be readable by optical character recognition (OCR) equipment. Because of this special characteristic of forms in the M941/942 series, ST9 series, MAB series and RO-2 series and of Forms 1-ES and 355-ES, the Department will not accept reproductions of these forms unless (1) they are readable by the Department's OCR equipment, (2) they meet the design specifications set out in section IV, and (3) the Department has approved the reproduction before the practitioner uses it.

Section V outlines the consequences of using a reproduced form that does not meet the requirements of this TIR.

II. Specifications and conditions for reproductions

1. Reproductions must be facsimiles of the official forms produced by photo-offset, photoengraving, photocopying, or other similar reproduction process. Reproductions produced on a dot matrix printer are unacceptable. The Department will accept a computer-prepared form provided that the form meets the conditions set out in Section III of this TIR.

2. Reproductions must be in black ink on white paper of substantially the same weight and texture as and of a quality equal to or better than that used for the official forms (20 lb. bond or 60 lb. offset). Practitioners may, but need not, duplicate the paper and ink color of the official forms.

3. Reproductions must have a high standard of legibility, both as to the reproduced form and as to filled-in data.

4. The size of the reproduction, as to the overall dimensions of the paper, margins and the image reproduced, should be as close as possible to that of the official form.

5. Reproductions of each schedule must be on a separate page unless they appear on the same page on the original form, and practitioners must attach them to the return in the sequence prescribed in the instructions. Exceptions to this rule must have specific Department approval. See Item 8 below.

6. The Department prefers that practitioners use both sides of the paper in making reproductions, resulting in the same page arrangement as that of the official form. The Department will not reject the form, however, if a practitioner uses only one side of the paper or if the reproduction has a fold different from that provided on the official form.

7. Practitioners may reproduce returns and related schedules after insertion of the tax computations and other required information. The signature(s) of the filer(s), however, must be original(s) on the returns filed with the Department.

8. Practitioners may use reproductions of returns and schedules meeting the above conditions without the Department's prior approval. Practitioners must obtain specific approval from the Department for reproductions that deviate from the official forms in ways other than what the conditions and specifications set out above allow. A practitioner must submit for approval a proposed reproduction that so deviates to: Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Bureau of Analysis, Estimation and Research, 100 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02204, Attention: Chief of Bureau.

9. Practitioners may not file reproductions of official forms (or non-standard forms) that do not conform to the preceding requirements in lieu of the official forms. Practitioners may, however, file non-conforming reproductions as supporting statements to provide detail and to explain entries made on the official forms. The supporting statements must furnish all required information in the same sequence as called for on the official forms. Supporting statements must conform to the size of the schedule to which they relate. Practitioners must enter the totals from these supporting statements on the appropriate official forms. Forms 1, ABC and 1-NR, however, must show an entry for each item that has a line number on the official form.

III. Specifications and conditions for computer-prepared forms

1. The weight, size (with any pin feeds removed), margin and other characteristics of a computer-prepared form must meet the requirements set out in the preceding section, and the format must follow the format of the official form. The Department will permit minor format modifications -- changing the dimensions of the check boxes for filing status, for instance -- to make the form suitable for computer preparation. If a practitioner omits the vertical rule in the money column, the practitioner must instead use a decimal point. A practitioner choosing to omit the vertical lines from the area reserved for a taxpayer's social security number must instead include dashes between the number groups.

2. Some line numbers on the Department's forms are circled to aid Department personnel in keying the data. Reproductions of these forms must also show a circle around such a line number. If a circle is not possible, the practitioner may use a box around the line number to differentiate it from other line numbers.

3. Before using a computer-prepared form, the firm responsible for development of the tax preparation software must register with and obtain an identifying code from: Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Processing Division, 100 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02204, Attention: Deputy Commissioner, Room 806. The computer-prepared form must show this identifying code immediately above the form number. This identifier allows the Department to contact the programming firm if the Department finds an error or omission on the returns or accompanying schedules.

4. Internal control numbers and symbols used by the computer preparer to identify the taxpayer and/or practitioner may appear on the computer-prepared form, if the practitioner so chooses. If shown, this information may not appear in the upper right margin.

5. The format for a computer-prepared return for a nonresident practitioner must follow Form 1-NR. The Department will not accept computer-prepared forms for non-residents that follow the Form 1 format and enter total income and adjustment amounts to the left of the column for numerical entries.

6. Practitioners must strip off any pin feeds before filing computer-prepared forms with the Department.

7. Practitioners may submit computer-prepared substitute schedules on good quality, standard stock machine stationery, subject to the following conditions:

a. The format of each substitute schedule must follow the format of the official schedule as to margins, item captions and line references (even if no entry is made for a particular line).

b. Practitioners may limit descriptions for captions and lines required by the official schedule to one print line on the substitute schedule by using abbreviations and contractions and by omitting articles and prepositions. The substitute schedule must retain sufficient key words, however, to permit ready identification of the caption, line or item.

c. Practitioners may include explanatory details for entries shown on a substitute schedule on the substitute or may submit them in the form of a supporting statement at the option of the preparer. If a practitioner does submit a supporting statement, the practitioner must reference it to the schedule entry that it supports. The practitioner must, in turn, cross-reference the substitute schedule to the supporting statement.

d. Practitioners may omit from a substitute schedule text prescribed for the official form that is solely instructional in nature (for example, "attach to and check type of return filed").

e. Practitioners must clearly identify each substitute schedule with the return and must include the filer's full name, identification number and tax year.

f. Practitioners must clearly identify substitute schedules by title and provide the filer's name and identification number in the substitute schedule heading. The substitute schedule must assign each data entry line a line number corresponding to the line number given to the item on the official form. The titles and monetary entries for each data entry line must be clearly recognizable.

g. Practitioners may combine substitute schedules on one page as long as they clearly identify each substitute schedule.

h. Practitioners may use copies of the supporting schedules from federal returns, instead of separate, detailed substitute schedules for the Massachusetts return, only as otherwise required or permitted.

i. Practitioners who want to file substitute schedules developed according to these guidelines must obtain prior Department approval to do so. Practitioners should forward proposed substitutes by letter to: Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Bureau of Analysis, Estimation and Research, 100 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02204, Attention: Chief of Bureau. The Department must receive proposals in sufficient time to allow consideration and reply before the first anticipated use of the substitute schedule. The Department will not make approvals over the telephone.

IV. Specifications and conditions for OCR-readable forms

1. To deposit collections and process information more efficiently, the Department has established a system by which certain forms may be read by OCR equipment. Use of non-OCR-readable facsimiles of these forms would seriously compromise this system. As a result, practitioners must use either the Department-prepared originals or, with prior Department approval, OCR-readable facsimiles of the following forms: M941/942 series, ST9 series, MAB series, RO-2 series, 1-ES and 355ES.

2. The weight, size, margins and other characteristics of an OCR-readable reproduced form must meet the requirements set out in Section II. The format and the OCR scan-line must duplicate that of the official form. OCR-readable reproductions must use A font, complete numeric set.

3. Some of the official OCR-readable forms require entry of information on both the front and back of the form. Reproductions of these forms must also use both the front and back of the paper; separate pages reproducing the front and the back of the official forms, stapled or otherwise attached to each other, are unacceptable.

4. Practitioners must submit any OCR-readable reproductions to the Department for approval before using them. Practitioners should forward proposed OCR-readable reproduced forms to: Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Bureau of Analysis, Estimation and Research, 100 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02204, Attention: Chief of Bureau. Failure to do so may subject a practitioner to late penalties and/or interest charges.

V. Consequences of failing to follow these guidelines

The Department reserves the right to reject any reproductions that do not meet the criteria outlined in this TIR, to withdraw the benefits of this procedure from any firm or individual, and to reject any reproduction process that fails to meet these standards. Rejection of a return or supporting schedules for failure to meet these standards may subject the practitioner to late penalties and/or interest charges, under G.L. c. 62C, §§ 32, 33.

/s/Stephen W. Kidder
Stephen W. Kidder
Commissioner of Revenue

December 1, 1987

TIR 87-12