This 2-D Barcoding Standards
Revision 2004v2 document is a Final
It is designed for use with TY2004 personal income tax applications as well as business tax applications.
By agreement of all market participants, use of these 2-D Standards (including Appendix 1) is designated mandatory. Our procedure is to continue to discuss appropriate issues as warranted and, where possible, come to agreement on what ought to be raised to the level of a mandatory Standard, based on group consensus.
One agency point of contact should be established to assist with questions and issues in implementation of 2-D barcoding.
There should also be a second point of contact as a backup for the primary person. 2-D specifications should include a phone, fax, e-mail and physical address for these individuals.
In some situations, an agency will have separate personnel that handle the 2-D approval process for vendor data output submitted, and for vendor substitute forms. Each should be listed, along with information for backups.
2. Forms Design
Agencies should examine their candidate tax form(s) carefully to determine whether 2-D can be used effectively. The tax agency should design the 2-D enabled tax form; this cannot be the responsibility of a vendor.
Form design should change as little as possible:
(Official Tax Booklet Version)
(Computerized Version - may or may not contain a 2-D barcode)
2-D barcode (black and white shaded box) appears in the upper
right corner of page 1 of this form, send the return to one of the
following addresses" and "If a 2-D barcode (black and white shaded
box) DOES NOT appear in the upper right corner of page 1 of this
form, send the return to one of the following
each of which is followed by a listing of pertinent addresses.
This bulleted list contains basic design standards for substitute full-page forms, and vouchers and coupons.
2.a. Paper and Ink
2.b. Form Text Design
2.c. Requirements for Vouchers and Coupons
For more, See NACTP's established guidelines (Tax Forms Design Guidelines) at www.nactp.org.
3. 2-D Barcode Technical Matters
A uniform dynamic link library (DLL) that has application across all tax agencies and forms is available from tax agencies that are implementing 2-D barcoding for tax forms. A PDF-417 testing tool and instructions on how to obtain a CD-ROM with additional information on 2-D barcoding are also available. Software developers should contact the tax agency for which they are developing 2-D capable software for further information.
3.a. Barcode Size and Placement on the Form
Each tax agency must define the area of the form in which the 2-D barcode is to be placed. Tax agencies must specify the maximum rectangular dimensions that will enclose the barcode and the location of that rectangle on the form. Software vendors will generate an appropriate 2-D barcode within the space defined. The rectangle can be of any size. However, software vendors recommend a rectangle that has a 2:1 ratio, that is the width is twice the height, as this allows for the creation of an optimal barcode and therefore will provide the best read rates for the tax agencies. If an area that has a different width to height ratio is specified, the software vendor will generate a 2-D barcode within the space allotted, however read rates may be reduced.
3.b. Barcode Layout
The data contained in a 2-D barcode can be broken down into three general sections.
1. Header Information
2. State Specific Data
Each section is discussed separately below.
3.b.1. Header Information
There is information generic to all barcodes that should be placed first in the barcode data stream. The first two fields in the barcode comprise the header. The fields in the header are variable length and therefore can contain as much or as little data as is necessary. Each field in the barcode is delimited by a single carriage return. This separates each piece of data so it may be efficiently processed. The header information must be consistent among all barcodes and is defined below.
(Note: The symbol <CR> is used to represent a single carriage return character.)
3.b.2. Header Field Definition and Order
Header Version Number - The version number will be incremented each time the standards group alters the physical structure of the 2-D barcode header. This allows intelligence to be applied to processing 2-D barcodes that were created using multiple header formats. By using version numbers, software can correctly interpret 2-D barcode headers whose format has changed across fiscal years or within fiscal years. This field is static for all barcodes and is currently "T1".
Developer Code - A four-digit code used to identify the Software Developer whose application produced the bar code. The purpose of this field is to allow forms to be traced to the vendor producing the 2-D barcode. Software Developer codes are assigned through the NACTP. If you are a company interested in developing a 2-D based tax product offering, contact NACTP at the address listed in Appendix 1 to request an ID. Also see Appendix 1 for a current list of Company IDs.
3.b.3. State Specific Data
[These fields are optional -- they can be included by tax agencies in their specifications, if desired.]
The State Specific Data section immediately follows the Header Section. This is where the state places all the data and or fields it wishes to capture from a form. It is suggested that the following fields be added to the state’s field layout before adding taxpayer data to the barcode data stream. These fields may be useful for your backend process. Include them only if your system requires them.
The following fields are NOT required. Do not include them if your backend process does not use them.
Jurisdiction - An alphanumeric identifier indicating the taxing jurisdiction. Use US Postal Service's official state abbreviations. All Federal tax forms should use the code "US". This field should always be upper case.
Description - An alphanumeric identifier used to describe the form being processed. The identifier can be used to route the barcode information to the correct system for further processing. If no special routing or identification information is needed, the field should be blank. In situations where tax agencies are processing different forms with the same equipment, it is important to be able to uniquely identify the form before further processing of the barcode information can occur. As tax agencies add 2-D barcodes to more of their forms, this field will become increasingly important. Remember to always assign a unique value to this field for each form or form set you are processing.
Specification Version - A number that identifies the version of the specifications used to produce the form barcode. These specifications are provided by the jurisdiction processing the form and describe the data layout in the barcode. Draft versions of the specifications are not assigned version numbers. The final version shall be "0", revision thereafter will increase numerically.
Software/Form Version - A vendor defined version number that reflects the software and form revision used to produce this barcode. This field can be used to track users that are submitting returns using old software. This indicator should be set once the barcode has been approved and incremented each time there is a change made to either the barcode itself or any fields contained in the barcode. This item will only be incremented when there are changes made that would affect the content of the barcode; it will reflect the current bar code release - it will not necessarily indicate the version number of the software release of the general tax product.
The last field in the barcode data stream is the trailer. The trailer is used to indicate the end of data has been reached. A static string of "*EOD*" is used as the trailer value. Checking for the trailer gives the tax agencies an accurate method for determining if all the data supplied by the vendor was received by the tax agency. If the trailer value is not the last field in the barcode this indicates a data overflow condition has occurred. The tax agencies need to process forms where there is more data on the form than will fit in the barcode by other means. How to process forms that overflow the capacity of the 2-D barcode is beyond the scope of this standards document and is left up to tax authorities to determine.
3.b.5. Examples - 2-D barcode data streams
T1<CR> Header Version Number
1111<CR> Developer Code
IN<CR> State Specific Data
IT40<CR> State Specific Data
0<CR> State Specific Data
T1<CR> Header Version Number
9999<CR> Developer Code
CA<CR> State Specific Data
540_2001<CR> State Specific Data
1<CR> State Specific Data
Additional technical guidance on PDF417 can be obtained from the Association for Information Management at www.aimusa.org.
The barcode can contain any taxpayer-entered data that appears on the printed return. The printed return refers to the return as it would ordinarily be submitted to the revenue agency.
4.a. FIELD FORMAT TABLE
This chart outlines the treatment of data fields for print vs. 2-D barcode formatting, and is included here for reference purposes. It is offered to illustrate the differences between print format and 2-D barcode data.
As a general rule the field lengths of 2-D barcode data should never exceed that of the printed form. Tax agencies need not make changes to their forms for 2-D data capture unless they specifically wish to alter the data captured from their printed forms.
In general, when developing specifications for the 2-D barcode, use the current printed form standards already in place for the form in question as pertaining to the physical appearance of the form.
The fields listed below are those that commonly appear on tax returns. NOTE: This list of common fields will be added to as additional tax applications are implemented by taxing jurisdictions.
Fields not appearing in the table, that are determined after discussion with the 2-D Standards group to be specific to a particular tax agency, should be defined in that tax agency's specifications.
Regarding the data that is captured for the barcode, all non-essential data, commas, whitespace, leading zeros, should be removed.
All delimiters should be stripped in the barcode.
The examples given represent the MAXIMUM field lengths allowable.
DESCRIPTION 2-D BARCODE
Returns 999,999,999. 12 positions 999999999 Business Returns 99,999,999,999. 99999999999 Dates Date without
Century XX/XX/XX XXXXXX Date with Century XX/XX/XXXX XXXXXXXX Taxpayer
Info Taxpayer Name 35 positions 35 positions Spouse's Name 35 positions 35 positions In Care Of 35 positions 35 positions Address: 35 positions 35 positions Private Mailbox 7 positions 7 positions City 21 positions 21 positions State 3* positions 2 positions Zip XXXXX-XXXX* XXXXXXXXX Taxpayer SSN Taxpayer EIN XXX-XX-XXXX XX-XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX Spouse SSN XXX-XX-XXXX XXXXXXXXX Taxpayer
Occupation 20 positions 20 positions Spouse Occupation 20 positions 20 positions County 25 positions 25 positions School District 25 positions 25 positions Telephone Number XXX-XXX-XXXX* XXXXXXXXXX Preparer
Info Firm Name 35 positions 35 positions Firm Address: 35 positions 35 positions City 21 positions 21 positions State 3* positions 2 positions Zip XXXXX-XXXX* XXXXXXXXX FEIN XX-XXXXXXX* XXXXXXXXX PTIN 9 positions XXXXXXXXX 9 positions XXXXXXXXX
-99999999 (significant digits only)
-9999999999 (significant digits only)
2-D BARCODE FORMAT
Date without Century
Date with Century
In Care Of
(Note: Depending on how the fields are generated by the different software companies, fields for Paper Returns, Electronic Filing, and 2-D barcodes may be interrelated. The field that actually appears on the printed form, in many cases controls how much data can be entered into an ELF or 2-D Barcode Field.
Example: If there were space constraints on the printed form which limited the County Name field to 15 Characters, this may affect 2-D and ELF lengths. If the ELF field and 2-D Barcode field were set at an allowable 25 characters, due to the Printed Form limitation of 15, only 15 characters would ever print in the ELF or 2-D Barcode fields.)
4.b. Field Standards for the 2-D Barcode
NOTE: Do not Zero-fill fields.
4.c. Field Standards for Printed
Round numbers to the nearest whole dollar amount followed by decimal point (omit cents or cents line)
Preparer information section: (Note: *characters may be preceded by a blank space.)
NACTP has issued guidance on recommended testing and approval processes. See www.nactp.org for additional specifics. As a general guideline, current software testing and forms approval timeframes and quality assurance practices should be followed in the implementation of 2-D barcoding.
a. Testing Processes
1. The taxing agency must supply substitute forms developers with the test data to be used for the 2-D barcode:
- It is recommended that E-file customers serve as the test client base for 2-D applications.
- Taxing agencies test scenarios must be provided on a copy of the taxing agency's form.
- Test scenarios must be accurate and complete.
- Testing scenarios should include all fields required for full testing of the 2-D barcode. This should include agencies required fields such as SSN, FEIN and county/school codes.
- Taxing agencies may base their test cases off the PATS testing scenarios. If the current year's PATS test cases haven't been released, taxing agencies can use the prior year's test cases.
- Testing scenarios should be made available upon release of the 2-D specifications to expedite the testing procedure.
In addition, taxing agencies can offer software vendors the opportunity to create their own test scenarios based on the agency's criteria. This allows software developers to forward forms earlier for approval when the test scenarios have been delayed.
2. Number of test scenarios
Up to six (6) sets of forms can be submitted for approval, to include:
- One set of blank forms
- A maximum of five test scenarios per form with either the same or different test scenarios.
- If an agency requires a full field test scenario, this test sample must be part of the five scenarios allowed.
b. Approval Procedures
The taxing agency should provide up-to-date contact information to software developers regarding forms acquisition and approval, including accurate email addresses and web site information.
1. Taxing agencies should update their primary contact information in the interactive members only section of the NACTP web site. Contact the firstname.lastname@example.org for instructions to update this information.
2. Taxing agencies must provide accurate backup contact information in case the primary contact is unavailable.
3. To facilitate forms approval, NACTP's preferred method of providing test scenarios for 2-D barcode testing is via PDF. Whenever possible, taxing agencies are encouraged to support and allow PDF submissions by those software developers that are able to do so.
4. Form content/format and the 2-D barcode data string should be approved separately and simultaneously, if possible, to facilitate vendor internal processing and expedite the approval process.
5. Software developers should provide a cover sheet/letter attached to the forms with a list of the forms submitted and an area for an approval signature.
6. Taxing agencies should notify software developers of the outcome of their review within 10 business days of receipt of the substitute forms.
7. Resubmissions: Software vendors should be notified within three (3) business days of receipt of substitute forms resubmitted.
8. Forms deemed "approved with corrections" should not require resubmission.
9. If the state agrees, early testing can be done by submitting returns for a "preliminary approval". The 2-D barcode approval will not be given until the state has ensured that all legislative changes have been included in the testing of the 2-D barcode.
6. Barcode Specifications and Version Control Process
Tax agencies, software developers, symbology vendors, tax administration systems integrators, and others are asked to support 2-D standards in their implementation of this technology.
Regular, ongoing standards discussions and
opportunities for input will be afforded to tax agencies and market
participants by FTA and NACTP. Continue to access www.taxadmin.org
for updated information.
November 4, 2004
CLICK HERE for a list of Vendor Codes (pdf file)