What is a Form 1040?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 May 2020
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A form 1040 is a basic US Federal income tax form. One of the most common US tax documents, a form 1040 is filled out by many Americans each year. The form consists of two major sections: one where income and family information is reported, and one where allowable deductions, credits, and other considerations are applied to tax liability.

As an annual document, the form 1040 has existed since 1916. This means it can be, and often is, altered each year to reflect new modifications, available credits, and additional information. It is important to study the form 1040 carefully to understand and apply any new or different criteria for the form.

There are several variations of the form 1040, meaning that a taxpayer filling out a 1040 must figure out which form is correct for his or her personal situation. A 1040EZ is a simplified form that can be used for people with no dependents who make less than $100,000 US Dollars (USD) in taxable income per year and take standardized, rather than itemized, deductions. A 1040A form is similar, but includes income forms such as tips, income dividends, and pensions. 1040NR forms are for non-resident aliens that have made taxable income.

There are a variety of attachable documents, called “schedules,” that may be needed to file a form 1040 tax return. These include itemized deduction forms, capital gains profits or losses, farming expenses, and self-employment taxes. In some years, additional schedules may be added if an additional temporary tax credit is available. For instance, when filing for the 2009 tax year, some people were eligible for a tax credit via schedule M, which was part of the government stimulus package for that year.

Important documents to have on hand when filling out a form 1040 include wage statements, mortgage or loan statements, documentation of dividends or self-employment income for the year, Social Security numbers, and past tax returns. It may also be helpful to have a calculator near by, as some math is usually required. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) publishes a paper and online help booklet for each type of tax form that may be useful as well.

Most form 1040 varieties are available in both paper and online formats. Some people prefer using the online forms, as they can link to free tax help websites that assist in doing mathematical calculations and correct additional forms. Most 1040s can also be filed online, also called e-filing, for free and at any time before the Federal due date of 15 April each year.

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