California Form 540 – One Sided Printing

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    While looking into two sided versus one sided printing of tax returns, I was surprised to see this information from the Franchise Tax Board.

    “To avoid delays in the processing of tax returns, the Franchise Tax Board requests that all mailed tax returns are printed single sided only. Duplex printed tax returns can increase the amount of time to process the return.”

    The 2018 California 540 Forms and Instructions booklet seems to confirm this information. The section called Assembling Your Tax Return on page 20 makes the following statement:

    “Caution: Form 540 has five sides. When filing Form 540, you must send all five sides to the FTB.” In addition, the pictorial shows Form 540 as five individual sheets.

    I have always used two sided printing with Form 540 and the returns have been processed. I’d be interested in any opinions on this subject and whether it is worth changing to single sided printing.

    Kaye Thomas

    The number one recommendation is to print on neither side of the paper, as electronic filing is more efficient for all. But if for some reason you can’t do this, or have an aversion to electronic filing, it makes sense to file in accordance with the tax agency’s preferences as a way to reduce processing time and minimize the chance of errors.



    Thanks for your comments. I’ll plan to send in the five single-sided sheets. That’s not much more than the three sheets required for the two sided form.

    It’s interesting that the form they provide is printed on both sides. Each of the five sides includes name and Social Security number so it looks like they are prepared for either case.

    At present I prefer doing my own taxes and mailing in a paper return. I’ll take another look at the electronic options and consider that in the future.


    I’m using whatever they send me. 540/Sch CA/5805/3801

    edit to add: I guess I could make 1-sided copies for them and keep the 2-sided ones for me. Might cost a bit more to mail….will have to investigate how price scales w/ weight. Also hope they don’t mind having 2 signatures……..I want copies of signatures so I know I signed it but they probably want an original.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 11 months ago by kaneohe.

    The Form 540 Instructions seem to specify individual sheets for Form 540 but not necessarily anything else. See the section called Assembling Your Tax Return. I will print on both sides for all attachments.

    I think two Forever stamps will now cover 4 ounces. The first ounce is $0.55 and I believe the cost of an additional ounce has declined to $0.15.


    Despite my earlier thoughts, I went ahead with two sided printing on California Form 540. There were no problems and my refund was electronically deposited into my checking account three weeks after mailing the return.

    I used the fill-in pdf forms and their scanner seems to capture the data without problem despite folds in the paper.

    One interesting surprise was mailing the return on 3-21-19 but having my online account with the Franchise Tax Board showing the date filed as 3-15-19. Their scanner must have picked up that date which I had filled in on the pdf form next to my signature.


    Seems to me that if they were serious about the 1-sided printing, they would state that explicitly in the 540 instructions instead of hiding them in a blog that few know about. True the picture shows 1-sided but the words just state that the pages should be in the correct order.

    I think your date observation might have worked even if you had signed/dated 4/15/19 and mailed 4/21/19 (as I originally mis-read ) but
    I bet the situation would have differed if you had owed them money instead.


    The request on single sided printing may have been driven by the information page added by some tax software vendors.

    I noticed that the number at the bottom of my pdf Form 540 (3101183) differs from the number on the form in the hardcopy tax booklet (3101187). Those numbers also change from page to page. My form prints out a little smaller with larger margins around the page. I wonder if that is an additional challenge for their scanner.

    I believe the filing date should be the date of the postmark. It’s possible they scan returns that are not late as an easier method.

    My returns were placed in the regular mail without proof of delivery and it was nice to be able to verify their receipt online. That included use of the Refund Status link on the IRS site which I used for the first time.

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