If you're a typical resident taxpayer this tax year, you'll likely just use the standard Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 1040 for your individual income tax return. On the other hand, you might opt for Form 1040-SR if you're a senior, Form 1040-NR if you're a nonresident or fill out Form 1040-X if you need to amend a prior tax return. But regardless of which IRS Form 1040 you use, you might complete additional forms and schedules depending on your tax situation.
Consider also: Organize Your Papers for Tax Time
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Using Standard Form 1040
Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, you could choose from the simpler Form 1040-EZ or 1040-A versus the full Form 1040. For example, the 1040-EZ worked well if you didn't have dependents, itemize or take certain income adjustments, while the 1040-A allowed for more adjustments and income types. Now, even if you have a simple return, you'd just use standard Form 1040 as a U.S. resident taxpayer.
This federal tax return form begins with key details such as your filing status, Social Security number and election of either the standard deduction or itemized deductions. It asks for your dependents as well as the types of income you have. You can claim certain deductions and tax credits to reduce your taxable income. In the end, you'll have a refund owed or tax liability due.
Along with completing the main Form 1040, you might include some of many supplemental tax forms:
- Schedule A for itemized deductions
- Schedule B for dividends and interest
- Schedule C for self-employment income
- Schedule D for capital losses and gains
- Schedule SE for self-employment tax
- Schedule 1 for certain income types like unemployment compensation or alimony and deductions such as educator expenses and student loan interest
- Schedule 2 for additional taxes due to IRA withdrawals, self-employment and advance premium tax credit repayment
- Schedule 3 for certain tax credits such as for child and dependent care expenses and education costs
- Schedule 8812 to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit
- Schedule EIC to claim the Earned Income Credit
Choosing Form 1040-SR
Introduced as part of 2018's tax legislation, IRS Form 1040-SR is an option for seniors who are U.S. residents and age 65 and older. While you can always just file the regular Form 1040, you might particularly opt for this alternative if you're doing a paper return and would benefit from the larger font size as well as its focus on tax benefits for seniors.
The form requests all the same information as the standard 1040 and works with the many supplemental forms and schedules available. If you use tax preparation software, it may generate this version automatically if you or your spouse meets the age threshold.
Consider also: Tax Credit vs. Tax Deduction: What's the Difference?
Opting for Form 1040-NR
The IRS requires Form 1040-NR for nonresident filers such as individuals and trusts who have some source of U.S. income but are located in another country. The information requested compares to that of the standard Form 1040, but you'll experience some limitations. These include not having access to some tax credits only available to U.S. citizens and having fewer filing status options.
You may still use common supplements like Schedule 1, Schedule 2 and a special version of Schedule A for nonresidents. You might also use the nonresident form called Schedule NEC for non-business and non-trade income.
Using Form 1040-X for Amendments
If you need to change a tax return you already filed, you'd use IRS Form 1040-X to report the corrections and update and include any necessary schedules. Depending on when you originally filed and paid taxes, you'll have to do this within three years of the filing date at the latest. The format differs from an original 1040 form but asks for similar information such as your adjusted gross income, deductions, credits, tax payments and dependents.
Filing Federal Income Tax Returns
When filing or amending a resident tax return, you can consider using online tax preparation software through Free File or a commercial vendor of your choice. As an alternative to the e-file option with tax software, you can work with a tax professional or fill out the paper forms from the IRS website.
If you need to file Form 1040-NR, know that common online tax filing providers don't support this document. So you might opt to mail your individual income tax return, have a tax professional handle it or consider a nonresident service such as Sprintax.
Consider also: How to Check the Status on an H&R Block Tax Return
- IRS: New Form 1040-SR, Alternative Filing Option Available for Seniors
- IRS: Form 1040-SR
- IRS: Form 1040-NR
- IRS: Instructions for Form 1040-NR (2020)
- IRS: Schedule 1040-X
- eFile: Form 1040 and 1040-NR, 1040-NR-EZ
- Sprintax: File Your Us Nonresident Tax Return
- IRS: Form 1040
- IRS: About Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return
- TaxAct: The Difference Between Form 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ
- IRS: Schedules for Form 1040 and Form 1040-SR