Flattening a PDF file with Win2PDF

We recently stumbled across this article outlining a problem with 2020 tax returns saved as a PDF file.

Q: I’ve been using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader DC to fill-in and save PDF tax forms on my PC. But when I recently called up a stored tax form, the data I’d filled-in appeared for a moment, then disappeared, leaving just a blank tax form. I then called up other tax forms that I’d saved earlier, and found that they still had their data. I then tried using another PC, and found that some stored tax forms contained the data I’d entered, while others had gone blank. Adobe won’t help me with this problem because I’m using a free app. What’s wrong and what can I do?

In this case, there was a glitch in the PDF viewer where the filled-in data appeared to “go missing”, even though the information was saved in the file. This type of problem is caused by PDF layers, and it can be easily fixed by flattening the PDF file.

Basically, flattening the PDF means compressing all of the data onto a single layer. No data or information will appear to be missing — all of it will be visible at all times — so the problem experienced with the “missing data” in the tax forms will be eliminated.

While there are several ways to flatten a PDF file, one of the easiest is to just print the document from Adobe Reader (or any PDF viewer) to the Win2PDF printer using the PDF Image Only option. That will flatten it automatically.

After you print to Win2PDF, the resulting PDF will no longer be searchable. If you want the text in the flattened PDF to be searchable, you can download and install the “Win2PDF Desktop with OCR” add-on and select “Portable Document Format – Searchable” as the Win2PDF “Save As Type”.

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