If you are the financial caregiver for a parent, grandparent or other family member, you likely are in charge of filing that person’s tax return. It’s important to realize that you can’t simply sign a return for that person.
For starters, you need to be your parent or loved one’s power of attorney or court-appointed conservator or guardian. Then you’ll need to include Form 2848 when filing a federal tax return for that person.
What is a Form 2848?
Form 2848 allows taxpayers to name someone to represent them before the IRS. If your parent is no longer competent and you are your parent’s power of attorney, you can fill out the form to appoint yourself as a representative.
You can download a Form 2848 from IRS.gov or access the file in the image below. It’s just two pages but can be confusing if you’re filling it out for the first time. Here's what you need to know.
How to fill out the form
Line 1 – Taxpayer information: List your parent’s personal information here because your parent is the taxpayer who is using the form to appoint a representative. You’ll list your parent’s Social Security number as the taxpayer identification number.
Line 2 – Representative: List your personal information here if you will be the representative. You need to include a CAF number. If you don’t have one, enter “none” and the IRS will assign a number to you. You should get a letter from the IRS with your CAF number, which you will need to use when you send a Form 2848 along with each year’s tax return for your parent. You can leave PTIN blank (this is a number assigned to paid tax preparers).
Line 3 – Acts authorized: These are the acts you, the representative, are being authorized to perform. If you’re simply filing a return for a parent, you can list “Income” under “Description of Matter.” Write 1040 for the tax form number if you’re filing a basic tax return for your parent. Under “Years or Periods,” be specific. Do not write “all years.” Instead, list the current tax year for which you are filing a return or you can list a series of years to cover past and future filings. However, you can only list up to three future years from the year you file the power of attorney form.
Line 4 – Specific use not recorded on CAF: Mark this box only if your power of attorney designation is one-time or specific use power of attorney.
Line 5a – Additional acts authorized: If you need to sign your parent’s tax return because your parent is no longer capable or competent, mark the box “Sign a return.” According to the IRS, you should include the following statement: “This power of attorney is being filed pursuant to 26 CFR 1.6012-1(a) (5), which requires a power of attorney to be attached to a return if a return is signed by an agent by reason of [enter the specific reason listed under (a), (b), or (c) under Authority to sign your return above].”
Most likely, you’ll list reason (a) Disease or injury. Reason (b) relates to a taxpayer who is out of the country and can’t file a return. Reason (c) is for specific permission to act as a representative for other good cause.
Line 5b – Specific acts not authorized: You likely can leave this blank unless there are specific acts your parent doesn’t want you to perform.
Line 6 – Retention/revocation of prior power of attorney: Mark this box only if your parent previously appointed a power of attorney and you don’t want that person’s power of attorney to be revoked with the appointment of you as your parent’s new representative.
Line 7 – Signature of taxpayer: Your parent can sign the form if he or she still is competent and capable of signing. If not, you can sign as power of attorney then list POA for [parent’s name] as your title, then print your name and the name of your parent for whom you are signing.
Part II – Declaration of representative: List the letter designation that best describes you. Likely, it will be “f” if you are a family member. Under licensing jurisdiction, list your relationship to the taxpayer (example: child or step-child). Then sign and date the form.
The Instructions for Form 2848 provide the address where you should file the form depending on the state where your parent lives. When filing the form, include a copy of your parent’s document that designates you as power of attorney.
If you make a mistake on the form, don’t worry. The IRS will notify you (by mail) of the mistake and will request that you file the form again to fix it.