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Revenue Administrative Bulletin 1990-17

Approved: April 12, 1990



RAB-90-17. The purpose of this Bulletin is to set forth the requirements and permissible uses of tax forms not printed by or obtained from the Michigan Department of Treasury. This Bulletin applies to forms for the following taxes:

Individual Income Tax
Intangibles Tax
Motor Fuel Taxes
Sales, Use and Withholding Taxes
(excluding forms C-3200 and C-3094)
Single Business Tax


The Michigan Department of Treasury will accept the following kinds of tax forms in lieu of the official form:

  1. Privately printed (reproduced) forms;
  2. Computer generated facsimiles (laser-printed) forms;
  3. Computer generated substitutes (dot-matrix printed) forms. (Not allowed for signature documents, see "Computer-Generated (Dot-Matrix) Substitute" below.)

All substitute forms must meet the guidelines set out in this Bulletin. The Department reserves the right to reject forms that do not meet these requirements.


The Department must approve any computer-generated versions of the official tax forms before such forms are filed with the Department. No approval is required for filing photocopies of the official forms or copies produced from official reproducible forms.

Approvals are effective for only one return year.

Apply for approval by submitted a copy of the substitute form proof, dummy, line printer or laser printer output to:

Michigan Department of Treasury
Publications and Forms Division
Treasury Building
Lansing, MI 48922

Please allow for adequate response time. The Department will issue a formal notice of approval/non-approval. If not approved, the Department will specify changes required for approval, but may require re-submission of the corrected documents before granting final approval.

General Guidelines for All Substitute Forms

  1. Design. Each substitute tax form must follow the design of the official form as to type style and size, arrangement, form number, item caption, line numbers, line references, dot leaders, and sequence.
  2. Size. Substitutes must be the same size as the official form.
  3. Paper. The paper must be equal to or better than the quality used for the official form. Usually, 18# (17" x 22", 500 sheets) white bond will be acceptable. Optically scanned forms require 24# (17" x 22", 500 sheets) bond.
  4. Paper and Ink Color. Substitute forms should be printed in black ink on a color of paper that substantially duplicates the official form. White paper may be used for substitutes of official forms printed on colored paper except for form MI-1041ES Fiduciary Quarterly Estimate Vouchers which must be printed on pink stock.
  5. Legibility. All forms must be highly legible and readable. The Department reserves the right to reject forms of poor legibility.
  6. Form Instructions. Text that is solely instructional may be omitted from both computer-prepared and computer-generated forms.
  7. Zero Entries. A response or amount must be entered on all lines. If the amount to be reported on a particular line is zero, enter zero (0). All amounts that make up the totals must be entered, not just the totals.
  8. Negative Entries. Negative dollar amounts must be reported in parentheses. Example: ($100).
  9. Signature. The taxpayer must sign the form in the designated space. All taxpayer signatures on forms filed with the Department must be original signatures.

    The Department will accept a photocopy of the income tax preparer’s signature.
  10. Pre-addressed Label. When the Department provides a pre-addressed label on the taxpayer's original return booklet, apply the label to the substitute tax return. Use of the label reduces the chance of error and delay in processing the return.

Laser-Printed Facsimiles

The Publications and Forms Division will approve for filing forms that are entirely produced on a laser printer if they meet all the specifications and provisions above. In addition:

  1. Laser-printed substitutes for the Department's optically scanned forms must include the scan line so the substitute form can be processed efficiently. Scan line specifications are available from the Publications and Forms Division at the address given on page 1 of this Bulletin. Scan lines must be printed in OCR ink/toner.
  2. Laser-printed substitutes for optically scanned forms must be printed ONE TO A PAGE and cut to the correct vertical height. The program should generate a top line to define the cutting edge for the preparer. The form is to be positioned at the bottom of the page to ensure a dependable feeding edge and positive margin for optical scanning.
  3. The software company must be identified on the form in a location approved by the Publications and Forms Division. The Division will assign a code number to a software company to use as an identifier if the company so requests.
  4. Software companies must provide their clients with instructions about stock, format, and the size and ink necessary for optically scannable forms printed on a laser printer.

Exception: Items 1 through 4 do not apply to forms C-3200 Return for Sales, Use, Withholding and Single Business Taxes or C-3094 Discount Voucher for Sales and Use Taxes. Only the official versions of these forms are acceptable for filing.

Computer-Generated (Dot Matrix) Substitutes

  1. Dot-matrix substitutes are unacceptable for all signature documents. Signature documents must be either the official form, privately printed forms using conventional printing processes, photocopies of the official form, or approved laser facsimiles. These forms may be filled in by computer, but must be printed like the official version.

    Any schedule that does not require a signature may be generated as a dot matrix substitute. For example:

Form C-8000G SBT Business Income Averaging
Form C-8020 SBT Penalty and Interest for Non-Filing
Form MI-4797 Adjustments of Gains and Losses Under Section 271
Form MI-1040D Adjustments of Gains and Losses Under Section 271

Any schedule that does require a signature may not be generated as a dot matrix substitute. For example:

Form MI-1040CR Michigan Homestead Property Tax Credit Claim
Form MI-1040CR-7 Michigan Home Heating Credit Claim

  1. Format. The schedule should look as much like the official one as possible, with the emphasis on readability. Periods and/or other special characters should be used to separate the various parts and sections of the form. Each section of the form must be identified as on the official version. All line numbers must be printed even though a zero amount will be reported.
  2. Form Number and Identification.
  1. Individual Income Tax Forms: The first print line of the return must contain the form title and the return year.
  2. All Forms: Print the taxpayer's name and account number (or social security number) on each page of each form.
  1. Line Numbers. The line reference number must be printed to the left of the corresponding line of text and also immediately preceding the data entry field.

    In addition, line number screened in white type or with an arrow preceding it on the official form must be preceded by a double asterisk (**) on the substitute form (for use by the Department's data entry operators).
  2. Vertical Alignment. The amount entry lines should be vertically aligned where possible.
  3. Multiple Page Forms. Each page of multiple page forms must be printed on a separate page. When printed on continuous sheets, detach and discard the pin-feed holes and burst and collate the pages before filing.

Snap-Out Substitutes

The Publications and Forms Division will approve substitute carbon-loaded or carbonless unit set substitutes if they meet all the specifications and guidelines above. In addition:

  1. Second and subsequent ply images may be black or blue.
  2. All plies that will be filed with the Department of Treasury must be legible.
  3. There is to be NO facsimile line on any form produced as a unit set.


If the substitute forms have been approved by the Department, but subsequently prove to disrupt or impede be processing of tax returns, for whatever reason, the preparer, taxpayer, or other person submitting the form agrees to: