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Why can’t I file plain paper printouts of IRS “red ink” forms? FAQ
Why can’t I file plain paper printouts of IRS “red ink” forms? FAQ

Here’s why trying to file plain black-ink copy A, 1096 and W-3 copies to federal agencies could get pretty costly.

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Written by Adams Tax Forms
Updated over a week ago

The IRS has issued a new eFile law that has lowered the threshold from 250 to 10 or more returns for employees. For details about the new IRS eFile regulations, click the link below:

What if I do mail forms to the IRS?

The IRS processed more than 240 million federal returns in fiscal year 2023.

To keep up with that demand 1099 forms are processed with automated equipment that uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology.

Your 1099 Copy A and 1096 forms and W-2 copy A and W-3 forms are printed with OCR red “dropout” ink. This special red ink allows scanners to drop the form template during the imaging process. This cleaner image is easier and faster to scan.

So, what happens if I throw a plain black-ink copy into the works?

The worst possible outcome is that your 1099 forms won’t scan. That means humans get involved and your forms are processed by hand.

If that sounds expensive, it should. For slowing down the workflow, the IRS will assess penalties for each 1099 form you sent that isn’t scannable.

Avoiding penalties for red ink 1099 & 1096 forms

To avoid costly delays and fines, send only pre-printed IRS-approved Copy A, 1096 and W-3 tax forms to the IRS. You can purchase authentic Adams Tax Forms online day or night at the Adams Tax Center.

As a reminder, Adams® Tax Forms Helper® produces a watermark on your black-ink 1096 and W-3 pdfs and printouts.

Watermarked copies are for informational purposes and are suitable for your records. They just aren’t suitable to file to the IRS or SSA.

Is there any way to avoid buying pre-printed forms?

Yes! Since Adams Tax Forms Helper is an authorized eFile provider, you can e-file directly to the IRS and SSA without official IRS forms.

Add Print & Mail Service, and we’ll even mail perforated copies to your employees and recipients from our secure mail facility. Additional fees will apply.

Is the IRS really planning to shift to eFile?

Yes, and that process has already begun. The IRS already issued its new eFile law that now lowers the efile threshold from 250 to 10 or more employee returns.

The IRS has encouraged all employers to file forms electronically and advises that eFiling is both faster and safer than filing paper forms by mail. As always, Adams® Tax Forms Helper® is here to help you eFile securely and efficiently.

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