What is the 1040?
IRS Form 1040 is the standard federal income tax form people use to report their income, claim tax deductions and credits, and calculate the amount of their tax refund or tax bill for the year.
There used to be three varieties, the 1040EZ, the 1040A and the 1040, that covered simple to complex tax situations. For the 2018 tax year — the tax return you’ll file in 2019 — there’s just the 1040.
How do I get a 1040?
- If you’re filing your return using tax software, you answer questions and provide information that is translated into entries on your 1040. You should be able to electronically file your 1040 with the IRS and print or download a copy for your records.
- If you prefer to fill out your return yourself, you can download 1040 forms from the IRS website.
- If you are looking for your tax returns from past years, you can request a transcript from the IRS.
Which tax forms and schedules should I use?
This year, everybody will use the regular 1040. But there are six new schedules that you may or may not have to tack onto that, 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:
- Alimony income or payments
- Business income (you probably also need to file a Schedule C)
- Capital gains or losses (you may also need to file a Schedule D)
- Rental income (you may also need to file a Schedule E)
- Farm income
- Prize or gambling winnings
- Unemployment income
- Educator expenses
- Deductible moving expenses
- The health savings account deduction
- Deductible health insurance expenses
- Student loan interest
- Deductible retirement contributions
Schedule 2: Nonrefundable credits
File this if you owe any of these:
- Alternative minimum tax
- Excess advance premium tax credit repayment
Schedule 3: Tax
File this if you want to claim any of these:
- Foreign tax credit
- Credit for child and dependent care expenses
- Education credits
- Retirement savings contributions credit (the Saver’s Credit)
- Residential energy credit
- General business credit
Schedule 4: Other taxes
File this if you owe any of these:
- Self-employment tax
- Additional taxes on IRAs, retirement plans, or other tax-favored accounts
- Household employment taxes
- Repayment of the first-time homebuyer credit
- A penalty for not having health insurance
- Additional Medicare tax
- Net investment income tax
Schedule 5: Other payments and refundable credits
File this if you plan to:
- Claim a refundable tax credit other than the earned income tax credit, American Opportunity credit, or additional child tax credit
- Make a tax payment associated with getting an extension or excess Social Security withheld
Schedule 6: Foreign address and third party designee
File this if you:
- Have an address outside the United States
- Want to allow someone else to discuss your return with the IRS
What do I need to fill out my 1040?
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
- Statements of wages earned (for example, your W-2 and 1099s)
- Statements of interest or dividends from banks, brokerages
- 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)
Does the 1040 really fit on a postcard?
Front and back, maybe. Form 1040 takes up about a page all told. Our advice: Don’t obsess about whether it’s longer or shorter this year. Why? Because for many line items on the 1040, determining what number to enter requires filling out other forms and schedules, many of which are several pages long and frequently come with their own instruction booklets.