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What is Form 1040?


Updated for tax year 2020

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Q&A SeriesForm 1040

The standard form used by taxpayers in the U.S. for individual federal income tax returns is called Form 1040.

This form is used if you do not qualify for either of the “short forms” – 1040A or 1040EZ.

Unlike the other tax forms, Form 1040 allows taxpayers to claim numerous expenses and tax credits, itemize deductions and adjust income.

You must file Form 1040 if any of the following applies to your tax situation:

  • Your total taxable income is $100,000 or more
  • You have self-employment income of $400 or more
  • You intend to itemize deductions (e.g., mortgage, interest, or charity)
  • You are claiming income adjustments (for tuition, educator expenses, moving expenses, or health savings accounts)
  • You had income tax withheld from paychecks
  • You made estimated tax payments or have over-payment that applies to the current tax year
  • You earn income from a business, S-corporation, partnership, trust, rental, or farm
  • You earn foreign wages, paid foreign taxes, or are claiming tax treaty benefits
  • You have sold property, stocks, bonds, or mutual funds
  • You received an advance payment for Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from an employer
  • You have a W-2 that shows uncollected tax (from tips or group term life insurance), or a W-2 that shows a code Z (income earned from a 409A non-qualified deferred compensation plan)
  • You owe excise tax on insider stock compensation (from an expatriated corporation)
  • You are a debtor in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case (filed after October 16, 2005)
  • You owe any other special taxes (e.g., alternative minimum tax, household employment tax, recapture taxes, etc.)

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