Which Tax Form Should You File?
Form 1040, Form 1040A, or Form 1040EZ
The 1040 series of federal income tax forms are the starting point for personal federal income tax returns. There are three different versions of these federal income tax forms: the original 1040, the slightly less complicated 1040A, or the simple 1040EZ.
So how do you know which version to use?
Tax Form 1040EZ
The 1040EZ is known as the “easy” form in the 1040 series. You can use Form 1040EZ if all of the following apply to you:
- Your filing status is “single” or “married filing jointly”
- You claim no dependents
- You, and your spouse if filing a joint return, were under age 65 (as of January 1, 2016)
- You, and your spouse if filing a joint return, are not blind (as of December 31, 2015)
- Your taxable income is less than $100,000
- You claim no adjustments to your income
- You claim no credits except the Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC)
- You had only wages, salaries, tips, taxable scholarship or fellowship grants, unemployment compensation, or Alaska Permanent Fund dividends
- Your taxable interest did not exceed $1,500
- You did not receive advanced Earned Income Credit payments
- Your earned tips, if any, are included in boxes 5 and 7 of your Form W-2
- You do not owe any household employment taxes on wages you paid to a household employee
- You are not a debtor in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case filed after October 16, 2005
- Advance payments of the premium tax credit were not made for you, your spouse, or any individual you enrolled in coverage for whom no one else is claiming the personal exemption
If you meet all of the above criteria, you can use Form 1040EZ as your income tax return. You may also be eligible to file Form 1040EZ online for free.
Otherwise, you may qualify to use the next simplest form in the 1040 series – Form 1040A.
Tax Form 1040A
This is a shortened version of the regular 1040. Form 1040A is designed for taxpayers whose taxable income is less than $100,000 and meet certain other requirements.
If you do not meet the criteria to use Form 1040EZ, you may be able to use Form 1040A if the following apply to you:
- Your only income is from wages, salaries, tips, interest, ordinary dividends, capital gain distributions, taxable scholarships and fellowship grants, pensions, annuities, IRAs, unemployment compensation, Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, and taxable social security or railroad retirement benefits
- Your only adjustments to income are the IRA deduction, the student loan interest deduction, the educator expenses deduction, and the tuition and fees deduction
- You do not claim itemized deductions
- Your taxable income is below $100,000
- You are only claiming certain tax credits (including the credit for child and dependent care expenses, the credit for the elderly or the disabled, education credits, the retirement savings contributions credit, the child tax credit, the additional child tax credit, the earned income credit, and/or the premium tax credit)
- You did not have an Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) adjustment on stock you acquired from the exercise of an incentive stock option
You may also be able to use Form 1040A if you received dependent care benefits or if you owe tax from the recapture of an education credit or the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).
If you do not meet the above requirements for Form 1040A, you will need to use the “long form” 1040 instead.
Tax Form 1040
Form 1040 is known as the “long form” and can be filed by anyone who doesn’t qualify to use Form 1040EZ or Form 1040A.
There are certain cases where you are required to use Form 1040 as your income tax return, including the following:
- Your taxable income is $100,000 or greater
- You have certain types of income (such as business or farm self-employment income; unreported tips; dividends on insurance policies that exceed the total of all net premiums you paid for the contract; or income received as a partner, a shareholder in an S corporation, or a beneficiary of an estate or trust)
- You itemize deductions
- You claim certain tax credits or adjustments to income
- You owe household employment taxes
These federal income tax forms can generally be found in your local library and post office. Or, like millions of taxpayers, you can save yourself the hassle and file online.