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How to Know Which IRS Tax Form to File — Form 1040, 1040EZ, or 1040A?

1040 Tax Forms— Which One Do You Need? — TaxAct
As an individual taxpayer, you can file your tax return with IRS Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ, depending on your tax situation.

How do you know which form you should use?

You can always use Form 1040, regardless of whether you qualify to use Form 1040A or 1040EZ.

Forms 1040A and 1040EZ are just simplified, shorter versions of Form 1040. They are intended for people who have uncomplicated tax returns.

The advantages of Form 1040A or 1040EZ is they are easy to fill out and easy to read.

Form 1040EZ, for example, is a one-page form. By the time you fill in your name, address, and Social Security number, you’re almost halfway there.

What could be easier?

On the other hand, you may be saving time, but missing out on tax benefits and paying more tax than you should by opting for a shorter tax form.

If you get a tax refund, your refund may not be as big as it could be.

What’s the difference between Form 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ?

All three forms are basically the same, with one difference. Form 1040EZ is for simple returns.

Form 1040A covers a little more information. And the regular Form 1040 lets you report all types of tax information.

All of the forms use the same tables to calculate your income tax liability.

What are the requirements for filing the easiest tax form?

Certain items on a return trigger the need to use Forms 1040A or 1040, rather than Form 1040EZ.

You can’t use 1040EZ if you are claiming dependents, for example. There’s no place on the form to list them. Having kids you want to claim as dependent immediately bumps you to at least a Form 1040A.

Having one or more of the following items means you cannot file Form 1040EZ:

  • A filing status of head of household, qualifying widow(er) with dependent child, or married filing separately
  • Over age 65 or blind at the end of the year
  • Claiming one or more dependents (a child, a parent who lives with you, or any other qualified dependent)
  • Taxable income of $100,000 or more, or taxable income from sources other than wages, salaries, tips, unemployment compensation, Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, taxable scholarship and fellowship grants, and taxable interest of $1,500 or less
  • Adjustments to income, such as a deduction for IRA contributions or student loan interest
  • Claiming credits other than the earned income tax credit
  • Household employment taxes on wages you paid to a household employee
  • Earned tips that are not included in boxes 5 and 7 of your Form W-2
  • Being a debtor in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case filed after October 16, 2005
  • Itemizing your deductions
  • Purchased health insurance through a government-sponsored marketplace and received the advance premium tax credit OR will claim the premium tax credit

What about the requirements for using Form 1040A?

Your return can be a little more complex with Form 1040A.

For example, you can have capital gain distributions (usually from a mutual fund) or distributions from an IRA and still use Form 1040A.

You can claim certain tax credits using Form 1040A, including the credit for child and dependent care expenses, credit for the elderly or the disabled, education credits, retirement savings contribution credit, child tax credit, earned income credit, and additional child tax credit.

You cannot itemize your deductions using Form 1040A.

In addition, some less common tax items prevent you from filing Form 1040A.

What’s the most important thing to know about Form 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ?

When you use TaxAct to prepare your return, TaxAct will guide you through simple interview questions about your tax situation and recommend which form to file with. In addition, we can help you choose prior to preparing your return.

TaxAct makes preparing and filing your taxes quick, easy and affordable so you get your maximum refund. It’s the best deal in tax. Start free now or sign into your TaxAct Account.
About Sally Herigstad

Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and personal finance columnist and author of Help! I Can't Pay My Bills, Surviving a Financial Crisis (St. Martin's Griffin). She writes regularly at CreditCards.com, Bankrate.com, Interest.com, RedPlum, and MSN Money. She is an experienced speaker and a member of Toastmasters International. Follow Sally on Twitter.