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Form 1040: U.S. Individual Tax Return Definition, Types, and Use?

What Is Form 1040: U.S. Individual Tax Return?

Form 1040 is the standard Internal Revenue Service (IRS) form that individual taxpayers use to file their annual income tax returns. The form contains sections that require taxpayers to disclose their taxable income for the year to determine whether additional taxes are owed or whether the filer will receive a tax refund.

Understanding Form 1040

Form 1040 needs to be filed with the IRS by April 15 in most years.

Everyone who earns income over a certain threshold must file an income tax return with the IRS (businesses have different forms to report their profits).

The IRS overhauled the 1040 form for the 2018 tax year after the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), and it examined, according to the agency, "ways to improve the 1040 filing experience."

The new, shorter 1040 was billed as easing communication of future tax-law changes and reducing the number of 1040s from which taxpayers must choose. The new 1040 form includes two pages to fill out which are available on the IRS website. Form 1040 can be mailed in or e-filed.

Form 1040 prompts tax filers for information on their filing status, such as name, address, Social Security number (some information on one's spouse may also be needed), and the number of dependents. The form also asks about full-year health coverage and whether the taxpayer wishes to contribute $3 to presidential campaign funds.

The 1040 income section asks the filer to report wages, salary, taxable interest, capital gains, pensions, Social Security benefits, and other types of income. The new tax legislation eliminated many deductions, including unreimbursed employee expenses, tax-preparation fees, and moving for a job (except for military on active duty).

The new 1040 uses what the IRS terms a "building block" approach and allows taxpayers to add only the schedules they need to their tax returns. Some individuals may now need to file one or more of six new supplemental schedules with their 1040 in addition to long-standing schedules for such items as business income or loss, depending on whether they're claiming tax credits or owe additional taxes. Many individual taxpayers, however, only need to file a 1040 and no schedules.

Types of Form 1040

Taxpayers in certain situations may need to file a different variant of the 1040 form instead of the standard version. Below are the options.

Form 1040-NR

A variety of nonresident aliens or their representatives need to file this form:

Those who are engaged in trade or business in the United States

Representatives of a deceased person who would have had to file a Form 1040-NR

Those who represent an estate or trust that had to file a 1040-NR

The IRS also produces the 1040-SS and 1040-PR. The 1040-SS is for residents of American Samoa, the CNMI, Guam, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands who have net self-employment income and do not have to file Form 1040 with the U.S. Form 1040-PR is the Spanish-language equivalent of Form 1040-SS.

Form 1040-ES

This form is used to figure out and pay estimated quarterly taxes. The estimated tax applies to income that isn’t subject to withholding, which includes earnings from self-employment, interest, dividends, and rents. This may also include unemployment compensation, pension income, and the taxable portion of Social Security benefits.

Form 1040-V

This is a statement accompanying a taxpayer's payment for any balance on the "Amount you owe" line of the 1040 or 1040-NR.

Form 1040-X

If a filer makes a mistake or forgets to include information on any 1040 form, Form 1040-X is used for making changes to previously filed 1040s.

Form 1040-SR

The IRS introduced a new 1040 form for seniors in 2019, Form 1040-SR. Changes include a larger font, no shading (shaded sections can be hard to read), and a standard deduction chart that includes the extra standard deduction for seniors.

Seniors who fill out their taxes online won't notice the difference, but those who do it on paper should benefit.

Standard Deductions on Form 1040

The 1040 income section asks taxpayers for their filing status. This filing determines the taxpayer's standard deduction. A new, higher standard deduction was introduced with the Tax and Job Cuts Act.

  • For the tax year 2022, which will be filed in 2023, the numbers are as follows:

  • Single or married filing separately, $12,950

  • Married filing jointly or a qualifying widow(er), $25,900

  • Head of household, $19,400

  • An additional deduction may be taken by those who are age 65 or older or blind (see "Age/Blindness" on the first page of Form 1040): Single and not widowed, $1,750

  • Married filing jointly, $1,400 for each spouse who is 65 or older or blind.

For tax year 2023 (to be filed in 2024), these deductions are as follows:

  • Single or married filing separately, $13,850

  • Married filing jointly or a qualifying widow(er), $27,700

  • Head of household, $20,000

An additional deduction may be taken by those who are age 65 or older or blind:

  • Single and not widowed, $1850

  • Married filing jointly, $1,500 for each spouse who is 65 or older or blind

Who Needs to File Form 1040?

Broadly speaking, if a United States citizen wants to or needs to file a Federal income tax return, they need to file Form 1040 or a variation of Form 1040 mentioned above. There are three general conditions to consider regarding whether an individual needs to file.

First, the IRS requires individuals with a gross income of certain levels to file taxes. This gross income threshold varies based on the individual's filing status and age. The table below lists the income limits for individuals under 65 years old; older taxpayers will have higher thresholds, and the threshold changes if neither, one, or both individuals in a marriage are 65 or older.

Second, children and dependents may not be required to file if they can be claimed as a dependent. If the dependent's unearned income is greater than $1,100, earned income was greater than $12,550, or gross income meets certain thresholds, the dependent must file their own Form 1040. These rules are slightly different for single dependents as opposed to dependents who are married.

Last, there are some specific situations that require an individual to file Form 1040. Regardless of their income or dependency status, some of those situations include but are not limited to:

  • You owe additional special taxes such as alternative minimum tax.

  • You receive HSA or other health account distributions.

  • You had net earnings from self-employment of at least $400.

  • You met income threshold limits for wages earned from a church.

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