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What Are Income Tax Forms?

Updated for Tax Year 2021 • June 21, 2022 10:26 AM


OVERVIEW

Income tax forms are the official government documents you're required to fill out when you pay your taxes.


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Key Takeaways

• Most taxpayers use Form 1040 to report their taxable income to the IRS. Taxpayers aged 65 or older can use Form 1040-SR, which older taxpayers may find easier to read.

• The IRS may require you to fill out additional forms, including a Schedule C to report your business earnings and deductions, a Schedule E to report profit or loss from rental properties, royalties or pass-through entities, or a Schedule D to report capital gains or losses from the sale of capital assets.

• If you work as an employee, you may receive a W-2, which reports the amount of income you made and how much the employer withheld from your paycheck for taxes.

• Independent contractors generally receive a Form 1099 from their clients, which also reports annual earnings, but does not usually include any tax withholding.

Income tax forms are the official government documents you're required to fill out when you pay your taxes. Generally, the more complex your finances are the more tax forms you may need to fill out. Each state and city also creates their own tax forms, but oftentimes they are modeled after the federal ones.

IRS income tax forms for the 2018 tax year and later

Beginning in 2018, there are only two main forms that most taxpayers are able to use: Form 1040 and 1040-SR. Form 1040 can be used by most all taxpayers regardless of their tax filing status or income level. Form 1040-SR provides an optional alternative to Form 1040 for taxpayers that who are age 65 or older and uses the same schedules and instructions as Form 1040. The font size on the 1040-SR is larger and might be easier to read by older taxpayers than the print on the standard Form 1040.

IRS income tax forms for the 2017 tax year and earlier

Most taxpayers used Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ to report their taxable income to the IRS each year prior to 2018. Anyone could elect to use the more complicated Form 1040 for any year. However, if your income was less than $100,000, you took the standard deduction and you didn't have any dependents, you may have been eligible to use the simpler Form 1040EZ prior to 2018.

Alternatively, you could choose to prepare a Form 1040A prior to the 2018 tax year, which was also shorter than the Form 1040, but long than the 1040EZ. The only deductions you could claim on a Form 1040A were the student loan interest deduction and income adjustment for IRA contributions; itemizing deductions is not permitted on this form. Regardless of the form, you are required to report all of your income and any deductions you want to claim on one of them.

 


 

TurboTax Tip: You can download your tax forms from the IRS website. If you use income tax software, such as TurboTax, it will include and complete the necessary tax forms based on your input.

 


 

Additional tax schedules

The IRS may require you to fill out additional forms, often referred to as "Schedules," depending on your particular financial circumstances. If you operate a business as a sole proprietor, you typically need to attach a Schedule C to separately report your business earnings and deductions. You may also need to fill out a Schedule E to report your profit or loss from rental properties, royalties and pass-through entities such as LLCs and S-corps, and a Schedule D to report capital gains or losses from the sale of capital assets, such as stocks and other investments.

Forms to report your income

If you're working as an employee, your employer is required to send you a W-2 form by the end of January in following the tax year. The W-2 reports the amount of income you made and how much the employer withheld from your paycheck for taxes. This will help you determine whether you need to write the IRS a check when you mail in your Form 1040, or if you should start thinking about how to spend your refund.

Independent contractors might receive a 1099 form from their clients, which reports annual payments received from them, but does not usually include any tax withholding.

Obtaining tax forms

The days of waiting for the IRS to mail you the tax forms you need to complete your return are long gone. Now it's possible to access your forms and to complete your entire tax return on your computer using sophisticated income tax software. For example, TurboTax offers user-friendly software that allows you to quickly prepare your tax returns. The software can even e-file your return which reduces the amount of time you have to wait to receive your refund.

Remember, with TurboTax, we'll ask you simple questions about your life and help you fill out all the right tax forms. With TurboTax you can be confident your taxes are done right, from simple to complex tax returns, no matter what your situation.

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