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The Difference Between Form 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ

Forms Taxes
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Wanting to know the true differences between the 1040 Federal tax form?

These forms are actually much more similar than many people think.

The only real difference between the forms is in the amount of information reported.

The IRS has a list of items, which if reported on your return, require using either the Form 1040A or Form 1040 instead of Form 1040EZ.

Can’t use 1040EZ when listing dependents

If you have dependents listed on your return you cannot use Form 1040EZ as there is no place to list those dependents.

However, if you do not have dependents, and so figure you should use Form 1040EZ, it is also okay for you to use Form 1040A or Form 1040 instead.

It’s like a glass of water

Compare these forms to having 24 ounces of water (your tax information) in a container and 3 glasses:

  • 8 ounce glass – (1040EZ)
  • 12 ounce glass – (1040A)
  • 24 ounce glass – (1040)

You cannot, without making a mess, pour the entire container of 24 ounces of water into the 8 (1040EZ) or 12 (1040A) ounce glasses, believe it or not it just won’t fit.

You need to use the larger, 24 (1040) ounce glass, to be able to empty the entire container.

However, if you instead have a container of 8 ounces of water (your tax information) and the same 3 glasses, you could choose to empty the container into any one of the 3 glasses as it would fit into any of them.

In this scenario, while it would not be necessary to use the 24 ounce glass for only 8 ounces of water, it certainly would not hurt to do so.

Items required for the 1040EZ form

There are a certain number of items you are allowed to have on your return in order to be eligible to utilize Form 1040EZ.

These include:

  • having a filing status of either single or married filing jointly
  • being under age 65 and not blind at the end of the year
  • NOT having any dependents
  • having taxable income of less than $100,000 and that taxable income only containing wages, salaries, tips, unemployment compensation, Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, taxable scholarship, and fellowship grants, and taxable interest of $1,500 or less
  • not claiming any adjustments to income, such as a deduction for IRA contributions or student loan interest and not claiming any credits other than the earned income credit
  • not owing any household employment taxes on wages you paid to a household employee
  • any earned tips must have been included in boxes 5 and 7 of your Form W-2 and you are not a debtor in a chapter 11 bankruptcy case filed after October 16, 2005.

While these are the requirements to be able to file Form 1040EZ, and while it is true that if those are the only things your return contains you can use Form 1040EZ, you can certainly still choose to use either Form 1040A or Form 1040 in those instances.

In the end it’s as simple as…

You can use the more detailed forms for a simple return, however, if you have information that requires you to use the more detailed forms, then you cannot use the simpler forms.

The IRS does not care if you choose to use Form 1040A or Form 1040 instead of Form 1040EZ as the information is still reported to them correctly.

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Photo credit: Telstar Logistics via photopin cc

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