IRS Form 1040 Instructions

IRS Form 1040 Instructions
Complete Form 1040 if your tax situation is complicated.

Step 1

Complete the Social Security section carefully, as an incorrect or missing Social Security number can reduce, delay or even increase your refund. If you’re not eligible for a Social Security number, you can use the individual taxpayer identification number for tax purposes. The same goes for your spouse. If he’s a nonresident alien, he must have either a Social Security number or an individual taxpayer identification number to file a return.

Step 2

Choose a filing status that's appropriate for your household situation. Options include single and head of household. The difference between the single and head of household statuses is that the head of household status is reserved for single, unmarried or legally separated individuals who provided more than half the support for their dependents. Married people can file as married filing jointly or married filing separately.

Step 3

Use the income section to report all income that you and your spouse, if you are married and want to file together, received for the year. This includes earned income, such as wages and tips, as well as income from foreign sources and unearned income, including interest, dividends and pensions. The total of these incomes is your gross income.

Step 4

Complete and attach Schedule B if your taxable interest income or dividends are more than $1,500. Interest income from certain sources, such as bonds issued by utility service authorities and the District of Columbia, aren’t taxable, but you still need to report it.

Step 5

Total all applicable expenses and then subtract the total from your gross income. The resulting amount, which goes on lines 37 and 38, is your adjusted income.

Step 6

Decide if you'll itemize your expenses or choose the standard deduction. If you itemize, fill out and attach Schedule A.

Step 7

Subtract your total deduction and exemption amounts from your adjusted income to arrive at your taxable income. Look up your taxable income in the tax tables and place the applicable amount on line 44.

Step 8

Total your various credits, including the child tax, education and retirement savings contributions credits, and subtract the result from the amount on line 44. Place the new result on line 56.

Step 9

Report your other taxes on lines 57 to 64. These include taxes for self-employment and the individual penalty if you didn’t have health-care insurance coverage. Total the amounts on these lines and add the result to the amount on line 56. Place the new result, which is your total tax liability, on line 63.

Step 10

Calculate your total payments. Enter the withheld amounts from your W-2 or 1099 forms in the payments section. Credits such as earned income, additional child tax credit and the American Opportunity Tax Credit count toward your payments. Include these payments and credits on lines 67 through 73. Add them up and place the result on line 74. This is the total amount you paid toward your tax liability.

Step 11

Determine whether you owe more taxes or are due a refund. The IRS owes you a refund if the amount on line 74 is larger than the amount on line 63. The difference between the two amounts is your refund. You owe more taxes if the amount on line 63 is larger, and you’ll need to pay the IRS the difference between the two amounts.