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W9 Certification: Can you prefill the fields?

W9 certifications are signed under penalty of perjury. Is it appropriate to prefill the fields for backup withholding and "I am a U.S. person" with an X to expedite completion of the form, or should those boxes be filled in by the customer signing in his own hand (no keyboard required) the document? I think in most situations requiring a HUMAN SIGNATURE it is expected that the signer should know what they are signing. Then with that assumption, why do so many of them come in incomplete? The reason for the prefill is to keep them from being incomplete. But if the signer didn't read it in the first place when it was blank and left it blank, are we to assume that they read it and agreed with it when they signed it then? Is there something specific in CIP, US PATRIOT ACT, BSA, IRS or the BIBLE that addresses this?

Answer by Ken Golliher:

None of the primary resources you list discuss a requirement that the W9 be completed entirely in the customer's handwriting. We have all signed a number of documents ranging from notes to marriage license applications that were completed by a third party before we signed them.

If we sign a document, we are responsible for reading it and understanding its implications particularly when it says, "Under penalties of perjury."


Answer by John Burnett:

To follow on Ken's comments, if one decides to prefill the checkoff blocks on the W9 (or any other form, for that matter) for the customer, it behooves one (I've wanted to use that word for a long time!) to inquire of the customer how the blocks ought to be checked.

First published on 3/17/03

First published on 03/17/2003

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