This Technical Information Release ("TIR") supersedes TIRs 87-12 and 89-9 and adds new rules regarding procedures for submitting forms for approval. This TIR sets out the Department of Revenue ("Department") requirements for acceptable reproduced copies of tax returns and supporting schedules for filing. Also, it discusses which forms may be reproduced by computerized tax processors, commercial printers and others who wish to provide facsimile copies of official Department forms, and how they may reproduce them.

I. General rules

Subject to the conditions and specifications set out in the four 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 of 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 forms. Reproduction forms are facsimiles of the Department's official forms that are produced by photo-offset, photoengraving, photocopying or other reproduction process. Practitioners need not obtain prior approval from the Department before using facsimile reproductions that meet the format specifications of section II.

Section III details the additional requirements that a practitioner must meet in creating and submitting a computer-generated reproduction for approval. Any firm creating computer-generated forms must obtain prior approval, as outlined in section III.

In section IV, the TIR explains the limitations on reproducing forms that the Department has designed to be readable by optical character recognition (OCR) equipment.

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

II. Specifications and conditions for reproduction forms

1. 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.

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

3. 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.

4. 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 7 below.

5. 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.

6. Practitioners may reproduce returns and related schedules after insertion of the tax computations and other required information.

7. 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, Forms Bureau, 100 Cambridge Street, Room 800, Boston, MA 02204, Attention: Chief of Bureau.

8. 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. Dot matrix forms must be highly legible. Practitioners must print forms on a high-quality printer using a fresh ribbon that produces a clear, dark, easy-to-read image. Printers should be set to the highest quality setting available, e.g., "letter-quality mode," not "draft mode." The Department requires that practitioners use 24-pin dot matrix printers set to a minimum of 300 dots per inch or printers capable of producing a product of equivalent quality.

2. The weight, size (with any pin feeds removed), margins 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.

3. 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 or brackets around the line number to differentiate it from other line numbers.

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

5. The format for a computer-generated return for a nonresident must follow the format of the Department's nonresident return, Form 1-NR. The Department will not accept nonresident returns that follow the format of any other Department of Revenue return.

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

7. Practitioners may submit computer-generated 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 statements.

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.

8. Practitioners who prepare computer-generated Massachusetts Resident Income Tax Returns must inform taxpayers that they have the option, when applicable, of filing Form ABC instead of Form 1. Form ABC is available to taxpayers who:

a were Massachusetts residents for the entire taxable year;

b. were single or married filing a joint return;

c. had income after deductions and exemptions of $80,000 or less; and

d. only had income from the following sources: wages; pensions and annuities

interest from Massachusetts banks or similar institutions; fees; alimony; unemployment compensation; winnings, prizes, or awards.

However, Form ABC is not available to taxpayers who:

a. were Massachusetts residents for only part of the taxable year;

b. were married filing a separate return;

c. had income after deductions and exemptions of more than $80,000;

d. were eligible for renewable energy credits, lead paint credits, or credits for income taxes paid to other jurisdictions;

e. were eligible for deductions for business expenses, alimony paid, early savings withdrawal penalties; or

f. had income from any of the following sources: a trade, business, or profession rents; royalties; partnerships; S corporations; trusts, REMICs, interest from banks or similar institutions outside Massachusetts; dividends; or capital gains.

9. Practitioners who develop tax preparation software must have their forms approved by the Department prior to using the computer-generated forms or distributing the software. The Department will issue identification numbers to all practitioners approved by the Department. The identification number allows the Department of Revenue to contact the programming firm should an error or omission be detected on a form or accompanying schedule. All computer-generated forms must show the identification number immediately above the form number.
Practitioners who plan to submit computer-generated forms must adhere to the following rules:

a. Complete the Letter of Intent to Abide by Department of Revenue Policies for Reproducing Tax Forms (Letter of Intent). This letter may be obtained from: Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Forms Bureau, 100 Cambridge Street, Room 800, Boston, MA 02204, Attention; Chief of Bureau or by calling the Forms Bureau at 617-727-7429.

b. Mail the completed Letter of Intent immediately to the Forms Bureau.
The Department will publish in its quarterly Taxpayer Advisory Bulletin (TAB) the name of the companies that file a Letter of Intent in order to alert taxpayers to those firms that have agreed to comply with the Department's forms reproduction policies.

c. Prepare substitute forms in accordance with the Department's guidelines and submit them to the Forms Bureau for approval.

d. Provide samples of each form the firm intends to produce for each new tax year.
The Department reviews submitted computer-generated forms on the basis of format and readability. Practitioners are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of their software.

IV. Specifications and conditions for Optical Character Recognition (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. The Department of Revenue will not accept reproductions of Forms 1-ES, 355-ES and M941/942 series, ST-9 series, MAB series and RO-2 series 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. 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 above mentioned forms.

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 the "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, at a minimum, 300 test samples of proposed OCR-readable reproduced forms to: Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Forms Bureau, 100 Cambridge Street, Room 800, Boston MA 02204, Attention: Chief of Bureau.

5. Upon approval of OCR-readable reproductions, practitioners must print their identification number in the address box above the scan line box of each coupon.

V. Failure to Follow Guidelines

The Department of Revenue reserves the right to reject any substitute return or schedule prepared by any tax preparation business that does not follow the rules set out in this TIR. Rejection of returns or supporting schedules for failure to meet the rules set out in this TIR may subject taxpayers to late penalties and/or interest charges, as provided by sections 32 and 33, chapter 62C of the General Laws.

Mitchell Adams
Commissioner of Revenue

TIR 91-6

September 6, 1991