When you do your own taxes, there's no question who signs the return: you. When a paid preparer does the job, then that person has to sign, too. It's less clear who should sign the income tax return of a corporation. According to the Internal Revenue Service, that responsibility falls to a corporate officer.

Corporate Officers

The IRS's instructions for Form 1120, the standard corporate income tax return, stipulate that the return must be signed by an officer of the company. The instructions list several acceptable potential signers: the president, the vice president, the treasurer, the assistant treasurer, or the chief accounting officer. The instructions go on to say that "any other corporate officer" who is authorized by the company to sign the return may do so.

If a corporation's tax return has been prepared by an employee of the company, then as far as the IRS is concerned, the company itself filled out the return. As a result, the space for a paid preparer's signature should be left blank. If the corporation hired an outside preparer, though, the preparer needs to sign the return and fill in the information requested in the area marked "Paid Preparer Use Only."

S vs. C Corporations

The instructions for signing a corporate tax return are identical regardless of whether the company is a traditional Subchapter C corporation or a Subchapter S corporation. A Subchapter S corporation is referred to in the Internal Revenue Code as a "small business corporation," and files its taxes using a different return, Form 1120S.

Bankruptcy Cases

If a corporation is under the supervision of a receiver, trustee or assignee, and that person prepares the return on behalf of the corporation, then that person should sign it, not a corporate officer. If a receiver or trustee signs a return on behalf of a corporation in bankruptcy, then the return must be accompanied by a copy of a court order authorizing that person to sign.