The 1040 tax form was introduced in 1913, and its basic setup has remained essentially the same over the past century. The 1040 conveniently collects all of your income, credits, and deductions in one place. In fact, while there are dozens of other forms and schedules that you can use for additional calculations (such as Form 8863 for education credits or Schedule A for itemized deductions), each final number from all these forms is tallied on your 1040.
1040 Form Types
The 1040 comes in several different varieties:
- The regular 1040 is sometimes called the “long form” because, at two pages, it is the most lengthy.
- The 1040A is somewhat shorter than the 1040, and only taxpayers who have income less than $100,000 and don’t itemize their tax deductions can use it.
- The 1040EZ is the shortest of all. It is a simple one-page form that can be used by individuals under the age of 65 with taxable income less than $100,000, no dependents, and with no income adjustments other than the Earned Income Credit.
Two uncommon versions of the 1040 are the 1040NR and the 1040X:
- The 1040NR is used by nonresident aliens who have income from a source in the United States, and thus have to file a U.S. tax return.
- The 1040X is used when you must amend your tax return after you have already submitted it, perhaps due to receiving an additional form after you had filed or discovering a deduction you didn’t claim. The 1040X is very simple and allows you only to demonstrate which changes you are making to the original return. However, it takes much longer to process a 1040X than any other type of 1040, as the 1040X is processed manually.
In the past, 1040 forms and instructions were mailed out to all United States taxpayers. However, as more and more people move away from filing on paper, these mailings have stopped. You can still obtain paper copies of all tax forms by going to one of the more than 400 IRS centers, or by checking with your local post office. You can also print any form from IRS.gov, or place an order on the website to have the IRS mail requested paper forms to your home or business.
Form 1040 Schedules
The “long form” 1040 is divided into several sections which include your name and personal information, your filing status (such as married filing jointly vs. separately), exemptions, income, adjustments to income, tax and credits, other taxes, payments, and the final calculation of the amount you owe or that the IRS owes you. Many of these sections incorporate references to other forms or schedules. This system keeps the 1040 from becoming needlessly lengthy, since you are able to do all of your calculations pertaining to specific items on the relevant schedules and not on the 1040 itself.
There are currently one dozen schedules for the 1040, and dozens of other forms which can impact it. Here are some of the most common:
Schedule B: Schedule B is most commonly used to report interest and dividend income greater than $1,500. If you received $1,500 or less, you can enter it directly on the 1040 and needn’t file Schedule B.
Schedule C: If you’re running a business and have small business tax deductions, Schedule C is where you can input the expenditures and income of the business. The amounts on this schedule are also used on Schedule SE if you made a profit and must calculate self-employment income tax.
Schedule D: When you accrue capital gains or losses during the year, use Schedule D to calculate the tax due.
Schedule E: If you own income-generating rental properties, you must use Schedule E to calculate your profit. It’s also used to calculate income from royalties and pass-through entities, such as trusts or S corporations.
Schedule F: F is for farmers. Any income or expenditures related to farming are tallied on Schedule F.
Schedule H: The taxes you owe for employing nannies, housekeepers, cooks, or other people who work for you in your home are reported here.
Schedule J: This schedule is also for farmers. It allows farm income to be averaged over three years in order to spread the tax liability between good and bad years.
Schedule L: Certain individuals, such as those 65 or older and the blind, are eligible for a larger standard deduction. Use Schedule L to determine whether you are eligible and the amount of your deduction.
Schedule R: This schedule determines how much of a tax credit you are entitled to under the Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled, which is intended for individuals 65 or older, and for those on disability who have taxable income.
Schedule SE: If you used Schedule C or F to determine your business or farming income, use this schedule to figure how much tax you owe on your profit. While this tax can be burdensome, you do get to reduce your taxable income on your 1040 by half of the self-employment tax you owe.
Most tax preparation software will automatically fill out the appropriate forms once your information is collected. However, when it comes to taxes, it pays to have an awareness of the filing requirements for different situations and types of income in order to catch the occasional errors that tax professionals and programs can make.