Which tax form should I file?

We all like things to be simple. We gravitate towards words like easy, elementary, and effortless. It all seems so… simple.

Taxes, on the other hand, can be complicated. And as taxpayers, we find it frustrating. So it would make sense for us to enter the simplest and least complicated tax forms we can find. However, it is not always the right choice. There are a number of tax forms available and the key is to choose the one that is most beneficial for you, not just the one that looks the easiest.

Here is a brief overview of the most common forms available:

Federal Form 1040EZ, Income tax return for single filers and spouses without dependents (download in pdf). The key element of the 1040EZ is the “easy” in the title. It’s a very simple return. You can choose to file a Federal Form 1040EZ if you are filing as single or jointly married with no dependents (remember, when it comes to children, nothing is ever easy). If you have dependents or if you are applying as head of household, widower or widower, or married, you cannot use the federal Form 1040EZ. no matter how easy you think your return is. You also cannot file using a federal form 1040EZ if you intend to claim the additional standard deductions (available for taxpayers who are blind or over the age of 65) – these options are only available on the federal form. 1040.

Assuming you pass the first test, move on to the second: your taxable income must be less than $ 100,000. Your income should consist only of salaries, wages, and tips (see line 1), taxable interest less than $ 1,500 (see line 2), and unemployment benefits or dividends from the Alaska Permanent Fund (see line 3).

You cannot file a Federal Form 1040EZ if you have self-employment income, rent, or capital gains and losses.

You cannot itemize the deductions if you use the federal form 1040EZ: you must claim the standard deduction. In addition, your available credits are limited to the earned income credit or the choice of non-taxable combat balance. This means that even though you can use the federal form 1040EZ, it does not mean that you should (for example, if you are going to lose deductions for tuition and other expenses, a simpler declaration does not justify paying more than you. shouldn’t to Uncle Sam).

federal form 1040, U.S. Personal Income Tax Return (download in pdf). The most common federal income tax is Federal Form 1040. There are no actual restrictions (other than residency) that affect your ability to complete a Federal Form 1040. It is the longest and most common. The most complicated form of Form 1040 but it’s also the safest: if you can’t decide which form to use, it’s usually okay to complete the federal Form 1040.

Federal Form 1040-A, U.S. Personal Income Tax Return (download in pdf). A good compromise between Federal Form 1040 and Federal Form 1040EZ is the often overlooked Federal Form 1040-A. You can complete a Form 1040-A if your taxable income is less than $ 100,000 and your income is from the same types of income as Form 1040EZ plus interest (line 8) and dividends (line 9); capital gains distributions (line 10); IRA distributions (line 11); distributions of pensions and annuities (line 12); and taxable social security and railroad retirement benefits (line 14).

Unlike the Federal Form 1040EZ, certain “above-the-line” adjustments can be claimed on a Form 1040-A, including educator expenses, IRA deductions, student loan interest deductions, and deductions for tuition and fees. You cannot itemize deductions on a Form 1040-A. You can claim certain credits using Form 1040-A, including the child tax credit, education credits, earned income credit, credit for child care expenses and dependents, credit for the elderly or disabled; and American Opportunity Credit.

Federal Form 1040NR, Income tax return for non-residents of the United States. (pdf download) Like it or not, the United States imposes a worldwide income tax on its citizens and residents. If you are a non-resident alien (see this article for more information on residency), you pay federal income tax only on US-source income. In most cases, you have to file an income tax return if you are a non-resident alien even if you have no income from your trade or business in the United States, you have no income from a United States source or if your income is exempt from U.S. tax under a tax treaty. (hey, I don’t make the rules). There is one exception: you do not need to file a return if, as a non-resident alien, your only trade or business in the United States was providing personal services with a salary of less than $ 3,650 and you do not need to file a return to claim a refund of excess tax withholding, satisfy additional withholding, or claim partially exempt income. Exceptions also apply if you are a foreign student, teacher or intern not resident in the United States temporarily on an “F”, “J”, “M” or “Q” visa and you have no taxable income.

Federal Form 1040NR-EZ, U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Non-Resident Aliens with No Dependents (download in pdf). You can pretty much guess the rules for filling out this form. If the rules for filing a Form 1040NR apply (see above) and you have no dependents, you can file a Form 1040NR-EZ as long as your taxable income is less than $ 100,000 and that your U.S.-sourced income is from salaries, wages, tips, state and local income tax refunds, and scholarships (that’s it). You cannot take any deductions or credits, however, to be fair, these are quite limited even with the 1040NR form.

Federal Form 1040-SS, Self-employment tax return in the United States (download in pdf). Form 1040-SS is a short form for reporting self-employment income if you or your spouse (if you are completing a joint return) do not have to file a Form 1040 but have net income from self-employment of $ 400 or more (or you had church employee income of $ 108.28 or more); and a resident of Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands or Puerto Rico.

Federal Form 1040-PR, Planilla para la Declaración de la Contribución Federal sobre el Trabajo por Cuenta Propia (Incluyendo el Crédito Tributario Adicional por Hijos para Residentes Bona Fide de Puerto Rico) (descarga como a pdf archive). This is the part where I amaze you with my college level Spanish… Form 1040-PR is the Spanish equivalent of Form 1040-SS for residents of Puerto Rico. For more information in English, see explanation of Form 1040-SS below. For information in Spanish, visit the IRS website.

Federal Form 1040-C, Income tax return for foreigners departing from the United States. This is my favorite tax form just because it’s so wacky and complicated. Form 1040-C is sometimes referred to as “your shipping papers” and is used by foreigners (no, not those foreigners, people who are not citizens) who intend to leave the United States (or the one of their possessions) for more than an incidental period of time. The purpose of the form is to report and pay federal income tax on income received or expected to be received for the entire tax year. And here’s the part that confuses people: Despite what I just said, a Form 1040-C is not a definitive statement. You still have to file a final income tax return (either Form 1040 or Form 1040NR) after the end of your tax year. The IRS is warning you (again) about the form:

Federal Form 1040ES, Tax estimate for individuals (download in pdf). You use a Form 1040ES to make estimated payments to the IRS throughout the year if you expect to owe tax of $ 1,000 or more when you file your federal income tax return. Unlike most other 1040 forms, this form will be filed more than once during the year, as the estimated taxes must be paid quarterly. If you miss a payment or pay late, you could be subject to penalties. For more on estimated payouts, see my previous post.

Federal Form 1040-V, Payment voucher (download in pdf). This is the form the IRS prefers because it is the form you use to send your tax payment by mail. Of course, you can still pay online – the IRS really, really wants your money as fast as it can get it.

Federal Form 1040X, Amended U.S. personal income tax return (download in pdf). So what if you pick the right return, file on time, and make a mistake? This is not the end of the world. You solve it by filing a Federal Form 1040X. Don’t just file another return – this will only confuse the IRS and you don’t want to do this. It takes a little time to process an amended return. If you have a refund claim, be patient – the IRS says to wait about 8 to 12 weeks before inquiring about the status of your refund. If you owe tax, expect to pay interest and possibly penalties, depending on the facts.

If, after all of this, you have any questions about which form to use, consult your tax professional or call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040.

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