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What is the purpose of a 1040 tax form?
Form 1040 is the standard federal income tax form people use to report income to the IRS, claim tax deductions and credits, and calculate their tax refund or tax bill for the year. The formal name of the form 1040 is "U.S. Individual Income Tax Return."
There used to be three varieties (the 1040EZ, the 1040A and the 1040 tax form) that covered simple to complex tax situations. Now there’s just form 1040 and 1040-SR.
Here's what the 1040 form does:
Asks who you are: The top of form 1040 gathers basic information about who you are, what tax filing status you're going to use, and how many tax dependents you have.
Calculates taxable income: Next, form 1040 gets busy tallying all of your income for the year and all the deductions you'd like to claim. The objective is to calculate your taxable income, which is the amount of your income that's subject to income tax. You (or your tax preparer or tax software) consult the federal tax brackets to do that math.
Calculates your tax liability: Near the bottom of form 1040, you'll write down how much income tax you're responsible for. At that point, you get to subtract any tax credits that you might qualify for, as well as any taxes you've already paid via withholding taxes on your paychecks during the year.
Determines whether you've already paid some or all of your tax bill: Form 1040 also helps you calculate whether those tax credits and withholding taxes cover the bill. If they don't, you may need to pay the rest when you file your form 1040. If you've paid too much, you'll get a tax refund. (Form 1040 even has a spot for you to tell the IRS where to send your money.)
How do I get a 1040 form?
If you're filing your return using tax software, you answer questions and provide information that is translated into entries on your form 1040 or form 1040-SR. You should be able to electronically file your form 1040 or 1040-SR with the IRS and print or download a copy for your records.
If you prefer to fill out your return yourself, you can download a form 1040 or form 1040-SR from the IRS website.
If you are looking for your tax returns from past years, you can request a transcript from the IRS.
How do I claim my stimulus check?
If you were eligible for a stimulus check (also called an economic impact payment) but never received it or didn't receive the full amount, you have another chance to get that money by claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit on line 30 of form 1040. Page 58 of the instructions for form 1040 has a worksheet to help you calculate how much to claim. Stimulus check money you may have already received is not taxable at the federal level. (Learn more about stimulus checks here.)
What is form 1040-SR?
Form 1040-SR is a new version of form 1040. It's for people 65 and older. Read more below about how it works and what's different about it.
How IRS form 1040-SR works
Here are some quick facts about the 1040-SR:
It's for people who are 65 or older.
You can itemize or take the standard deduction.
The basic differences between the 1040-SR and the regular 1040 tax form are cosmetic: the 1040-SR has a different color scheme, a larger font and an embedded standard deduction table (which may help more people over 65 claim their larger standard deduction)
Here's what IRS form 1040-SR does:
Asks who you are: The top of form 1040-SR gathers basic information about who you are, what tax filing status you're going to use, and how many tax dependents you have.
Calculates taxable income: Form 1040-SR adds up your income for the year, as well as all the deductions you'd like to claim. The objective is to calculate your taxable income, which is the amount of your income that's subject to income tax. You (or your tax preparer or tax software) consult the federal tax brackets to do that math.
Calculates your tax liability: Near the bottom of form 1040-SR, you'll write down how much income tax you're responsible for. At that point, you get to subtract any tax credits that you might qualify for. You can still take the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit and any other tax credit you would take if you were using the regular 1040 tax form. Next you'll indicate what taxes you've already paid during the year.
Determines whether you've already paid some or all of your tax bill: Similar to the regular 1040, the 1040-SR helps you calculate whether your tax credits and the taxes you've already paid will cover your tax bill. If they don't, you may need to pay the rest when you file your tax return. If you've paid too much, you'll get a tax refund. (form 1040-SR has a spot for you to tell the IRS where to send your money.)
Which form 1040 schedules should I use?
Virtually everybody uses the regular form 1040 or the form 1040-SR, but there are also three schedules you may or may not have to tack onto it, depending on your tax situation and whether you want to claim certain deductions and credits. Some people may not have to file any of these schedules.
Schedule 1: Additional income and adjustments to income
File this if you had any of these (click the links to learn more about any of these topics):
Alimony income or payments
Rental income (you may also need to file a Schedule E)
Deductible moving expenses
The health savings account deduction
Deductible health insurance expenses
Schedule 2: Additional taxes
File this if you owe any of these:
Excess advance premium tax credit repayment
Additional taxes on IRAs, retirement plans, or other tax-favored accounts
Household employment taxes
Repayment of the first-time homebuyer credit
Additional Medicare tax
Net investment income tax
Schedule 3: Additional credits and payments
File this if you want to claim any of these:
Foreign tax credit
Credit for child and dependent care expenses
Retirement savings contributions credit (the Saver’s Credit)
Residential energy credit
General business credit
What do I need to fill out form 1040 or form 1040-SR?
You'll need a lot of information to do your taxes, but here are a few basics that most people have to collect to get started:
Social Security Numbers for you, your spouse and any dependents
Dates of birth for you, your spouse and any dependents
Proof of any tax credits or tax deductions
A copy of your past tax return
Your bank account number and routing number (for direct deposit of any refund)