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Income Tax Forms

Individuals should file a 1040EZ, 1040A or 1040 tax form based on certain criteria.

The deadline for filing income taxes is typically April 15. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
The deadline for filing income taxes is typically April 15.

Income Tax Forms

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), there are three income tax forms available to individuals filing annual federal tax returns. Form 1040EZ is the easiest form to use if the taxpayer meets the qualifications to use it. Form 1040A can be used if a person cannot use Form 1040EZ due to the inclusion of certain income items or adjustments to income. Form 1040A has a number of restrictions to its use that may require the use of Form 1040, which can be used to report all types of income, deductions and credits.

Form 1040EZ

According to IRS Publication 17, persons eligible to file Form 1040EZ must have a filing status of single or married filing jointly. The taxpayers must be under age 65, not blind and not claiming exemptions for dependents; (those who are at least 65 or blind can claim an exemption for withholding). Taxable income has to be less than $100,000 and can consist of only wages, tips, unemployment compensation, taxable scholarships or grants and taxable interest of $1,500 or less.

Dividends are only permitted on this form if they are Alaskan Permanent Fund dividends. Adjustments to income, such as deductions for IRA contributions, cannot be claimed. The earned income credit (EIC) is allowed; however, advance earned income credit payments received will preclude the use of Form 1040EZ. The only other credit allowed is the recovery rebate credit. The additional standard deduction for real estate taxes paid or for disaster losses cannot be claimed nor can taxes be owed on household employee wages. If any of these requirements are not met, Form 1040EZ cannot be used, and the taxpayer should file either Form 1040A or Form 1040. The tax table is used to compute the tax on Form 1040EZ and no other tax can be reported on this form. There are only 11 lines on this form to report income, deductions and credits to arrive at the tax liability.

Form 1040A

Individuals who do not qualify for filing Form 1040EZ may qualify for using Form 1040A. Income items would include the amounts reportable on Form 1040EZ plus pensions and annuities, IRA distributions, Social Security and railroad retirement benefits, interest and dividend income, and capital gain distributions. Like Form 1040EZ, taxable income must be less than $100,000. Exemptions for dependents are allowed but itemized deductions are not. However, certain adjustments to income are allowed for educator expenses, the IRA deduction, student loan interest, and the tuition and fees deduction. Taxes must be determined from the tax table as adjusted by the Qualified Dividends and Capital Gain Worksheet, the alternative minimum tax, the advance earned income credit (EIC) payments, recapture of an education credit and Form 8615 tax for children who have over $1,800 of investment income. The following credits may be claimed, if applicable:

  • Child and dependent care expenses
  • The elderly or disabled
  • Child tax credit and additional child tax credit
  • The education credits
  • Retirement savings contribution credit
  • The earned income credit
  • The recovery rebate credit

Form 1040A can be used even if an addition ($500 if single or $1,000 if married) is made to the standard deduction for real estate taxes paid. There are 37 lines on this form to report income, deductions and credits to arrive at the tax liability. If all the requirements are not met to qualify for the use of this form, then Form 1040 must be filed.

Form 1040

Form 1040 is used by taxpayers who cannot use one of the shorter forms. Form 1040 is mandatory if taxable income is $100,000 or more, but can also be used when taxable income is less than $100,000. There are 61 lines on Form 1040 to arrive at the total tax liability and a number of these items require other forms to be completed and attached to this tax return when it is filed. The most significant forms include:

  • Schedules A & B for reporting itemized deductions as well as interest and dividend income
  • Schedule C or C-EZ for business income
  • Schedule D for capital gains or losses
  • Schedule E for rental income
  • Schedule F for farm income
  • Schedule SE for self-employment tax on business and farm income
  • Form 2106 or 2106-EZ for employee business expenses (which would be a miscellaneous deduction included in itemized deductions)
  • Form 3903 for moving expenses
  • Form 2441 for credit for child and dependent care expenses
  • Form 8863 for education credits
  • Schedule H for household employment taxes
  • Form 6251 for alternative minimum tax (AMT)

There are a number of other lesser used forms that may also be required if the situation warrants it. The current and previous years of all tax forms are available at the IRS website.

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