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What Is an IRS 1040 Form?

Updated for Tax Year 2014


One of the official documents that U.S. taxpayers can use to file their annual income tax return is the IRS 1040 form.

The IRS Form 1040 is one of the official documents that U.S. taxpayers can use to file their annual income tax return. The form is divided into sections where you can 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 other forms or schedules to it.

Reporting your income

The first page of Form 1040 is where you calculate your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). The first section requires you to enter information on all sources of income such as your wages and salary, tips, interest, dividends, taxable state and local tax refunds, alimony, business income, capital gains, IRA and pension distributions, farm income, unemployment income and Social Security benefits.

You will always find a box on the form to list “other income” you receive that doesn’t fit into one of the other categories. You must report all income you receive, regardless of where it comes from, unless it’s tax-exempt. The sum of all of these income items is known as your total income.

Deductions for AGI

From your total income, the IRS allows you to claim specific deductions or adjustments to arrive at your AGI. Allowable adjustments include one-half of your self-employment tax payments, alimony payments you make, IRA contributions, payments of student loan interest and health savings plan contributions, to name just a few. Your AGI is an important number since many deduction limitations are affected by it.

Deductions and exemptions

The second page of Form 1040 begins with your AGI and allows you to reduce it further with either the standard deduction or the total of your itemized deductions. Itemized deductions include expenses such as mortgage interest, unreimbursed business expenses and excess medical expenses as well as many others.

If the total of your itemized deductions does not exceed the standard deduction for your filing status, then your taxable income will be lower if you claim the standard deduction. After choosing the best deduction, you can then reduce your taxable income even more by one exemption for yourself, and one for each of the dependents you claim. After subtracting your exemptions, you are left with your taxable income, which is the amount subject to income tax.

When you use TurboTax, we’ll do this for you and recommend whether choosing the standard deduction or itemizing will give you the best results.

Calculating the tax and claiming credits

You must now figure out the amount of tax you owe on your taxable income by referencing the tax tables in your instructions. However, if you use software, such as TurboTax, to prepare your return, the tax will be automatically calculated for you. Comparing your total tax withholding to your tax bill at the bottom of Form 1040 will tell you whether you must make an additional payment or if you should expect a refund. If you are eligible for any of the tax credits listed on the form, make sure you reduce the amount of tax you owe by each credit before completing your Form 1040.

Again, TurboTax will do all of this for you, so you get your maximum refund, guaranteed.

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The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.

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