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What Is an IRS 1040 Form?

Updated for Tax Year 2021 / October 16, 2021 01:40 AM


The IRS Form 1040 is one of the official documents that U.S. taxpayers can use to file their annual income tax return. IRS Form 1040 comes in a few variations. There have been a few recent changes to the federal form 1040. We’ll review the differences and show you how file 1040 form when it comes to tax time.

For information on the third coronavirus relief package, please visit our “American Rescue Plan: What Does it Mean for You and a Third Stimulus Check” blog post.


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The IRS 1040 form is one of the official documents that U.S. taxpayers use to file their annual income tax return. The 1040 form is divided into sections where you report your income and deductions to determine the amount of tax you owe or the refund you can expect to receive. Depending on the type of income you report, it may be necessary to attach additional forms, also known as schedules.

Here's a guide to all of the 1040 variations you may come across.

Why are there different versions of the 1040 form?

There are now four variations of the 1040 form (1040A and 1040EZ no longer exist):

  • Form 1040: This is the one the majority of taxpayers will use to report income and determine their tax for the year and any refund or additional tax owed.
  • Form 1040-SR: This version is for senior taxpayers (age 65 and older). Form 1040-SR is nearly identical to Form 1040, but is printed using a larger font and includes a chart for determining the taxpayer's standard deduction.
  • Form 1040-NR: This form is for non-U.S. citizens who do not hold a green card, and it is several pages longer than the other 1040 form versions.
  • Form 1040-X: This form is for taxpayers who need to make amendments to their tax return after previously filing a Form 1040.

What is the purpose of a 1040 form?

Taxpayers use the federal 1040 form to calculate their taxable income and tax on that income. One of the first steps is to calculate Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) by first reporting your total income and then claiming any allowable adjustments, also known as above-the-line deductions. Your AGI is an important number since many deduction limitations are affected by it.

On line 11 of the tax year 2020 Form 1040, you will report your AGI. You can reduce it further with either the standard deduction or the total of your itemized deductions reported on Schedule A. Itemized deductions include expenses such as:

  • mortgage interest,
  • state and local income taxes or sales taxes,
  • charitable contributions, and
  • excess medical expenses.

If the total of your itemized deductions does not exceed the standard deduction for your filing status, then your taxable income will usually be lower if you claim the standard deduction. Beginning in 2018, exemption deductions are replaced with higher child tax credits and a new other-dependent tax credit.

TurboTax will do this calculation for you and recommend whether choosing the standard deduction or itemizing will give you the best results.

What are the different schedules used with Form 1040?

Even though Form 1040 is relatively short, there are various schedules, or additional forms, that help taxpayers calculate specific items that apply to Form 1040:

  • Schedule 1: This form is used for reporting several common additional income sources or adjustments to income. Some common examples of items reported on Schedule 1 include alimony, gains or losses from the sale of a business property, unemployment compensation, educator expenses, tuition and fees deductions, and health savings account contributions.
  • Schedule 2: This form is used for reporting additional taxes, and it now consists of two parts. The first part is for reporting alternative minimum tax and repayments of excess premium tax credits for health insurance purchased through the health insurance marketplace. The second part is for reporting self-employment taxes, unreported social security and Medicare tax, additional tax on IRAs or other tax-favored accounts, household employment taxes, repayment of first-time home buyer credit, and section 965 net tax liability for foreign corporations.
  • Schedule 3: This form is for reporting additional credits and payments, and it's split into two parts: refundable credits and non-refundable credits. Credits reported here include credits for child and dependent care expenses, residential energy credits, overpayment of taxes in previous years, and previously paid excess social security taxes.
  • Schedule A: This common form is used to enter all itemized deductions. These can include medical and dental expenses, mortgage interest, state and local taxes, charitable donations, and casualty and theft losses.
  • Schedule B: This form is used to report interest and dividend income that is greater than $1,500. If you have interest and dividend income under that amount, you will enter that on Form 1040, Lines 2 and 3.
  • Schedule C: This form is for reporting profit or loss from business. It's used by independent contractors, freelancers, and owners of sole proprietorships or single-member LLCs.
  • Schedule D: This form is used for reporting capital gains or losses from investments.
  • Schedule E: Those who have income or losses from rental real estate, royalties, partnerships, S corporations, estates, trusts, REMICs, or other pass-through entities will report those amounts on this form.
  • Schedule F: This form is used by farmers to report income and expenses from farming.
  • Schedule H: This form is used by taxpayers with household workers, such as a nanny or caretaker. Since the taxpayer is responsible for withholding income for social security and Medicare taxes, those are reported here.
  • Schedule J: This form is used by farmers and fisherman who choose to figure their income tax by averaging their three previous years' worth of taxes in order to more evenly distribute tax liability.
  • Schedule R: This form is for claiming the senior or disability tax credit.
  • Schedule SE: For business owners or independent contractors who made a profit of at least $400, this form is used to calculate self-employment tax.
  • 8812: This form is for claiming the additional child tax credit on your 2020 tax return. If the total child tax credit amount for all qualifying children in your household exceeds the amount of tax you owe for the year, then you will prepare this form to calculate the refundable portion of the credit. For tax year 2021, the entire child tax credit is refundable so it is expected that Form 8812 will not be necessary for your 2021 tax return.

What are the most recent changes to Form 1040?

The biggest change to Federal Form 1040 is that a new Line 30 has been added for the Recovery Rebate Credit. This is for taxpayers who didn't receive payments or could have received a larger payment from the government when economic impact payments (stimulus checks) went out in 2020. These taxpayers can claim that amount as a refundable credit here.

Additionally, the "Amount You Owe" section of Form 1040, will now state: "Schedule H and Schedule SE filers, line 37 may not represent all of the taxes you owe for 2020." This means that since employers were allowed to defer payments of the employer's share of social security tax due to the CARES Act, this deferred amount will be reported in the payments section of Form 1040, Schedule 3, Line 12e. It will be entered as a "Deferral for certain Schedule H or SE filers."

Another change to Form 1040 is that there are now three lines to report withholdings. On Form 1040, Line 25a will be for W-2 withholdings, Line 25b will be for 1099 withholdings, and Line 25c will be for other withholdings.

There is also a new deduction for charitable cash contributions of up to $300. These will be reported on Schedule A, Line 10b for taxpayers taking the standard deduction.

Finally, there is a new credit for sick and family leave for certain self-employed individuals. This credit will be entered on Schedule 3, Line 12b and will be calculated on Form 7202.

Remember, with TurboTax, we'll ask you simple questions about your life and help you fill out all the right tax forms. Whether you have a simple or complex tax situation, we've got you covered. Feel confident doing your own taxes.

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