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What are IRS Forms?

Updated for Tax Year 2015


IRS forms are documents that individuals and businesses use to report all financial activities to the federal government for purposes of calculating their tax liability.

IRS forms are documents that individuals and businesses use to report all financial activities to the federal government for purposes of calculating their tax liability. The Internal Revenue Service creates hundreds of forms, though it’s unlikely that you will encounter more than just a handful from year to year.

Tax return forms

The IRS form most familiar to Americans is the Form 1040, which is the standard tax return for individual taxpayers. Two simplified versions of the Form 1040 exist; the1040A and 1040EZ. However, all three are a means to the same end of calculating your annual federal income tax bill.

Corporations pay income taxes too. Most corporations file their returns using Form 1120 or a modified version of it. Other forms exist that relate to other types of federal taxes, such as an estate and gift tax return.

Schedules and attachments to IRS forms

Filing an income tax return may involve more forms than just your return. Depending on the complexity of your finances, there are dozens of other forms you may have to fill out and include with your return. The most common of these are called "schedules."

For example, if you want to itemize your deductions, then you must complete a Schedule A attachment. And if you have significant interest or dividend income, then you also need to attach a Schedule B. Other common schedules include the Schedule C to report income and losses from a sole proprietorship and Schedule D to report your capital asset transactions such as your stock sales,

If you plan on taking advantage of tax deductions and credits, you'll have to fill out separate forms and include them with your return, such as Form 2441 for the tax credit for childcare expenses or Form 1116 for the foreign tax credit.

Informational tax forms

The IRS also issues tax forms that provide you with vital information necessary for preparing your taxes, even though you don’t fill them out. The most frequently used informational tax form is the W-2 that your employer prepares to report your annual wages, salaries and tips and the amount of tax withheld from it.

Form 1099 is similar to the W-2 but is used to report a wider range of income you receive during the year. Variations of the form include the 1099-INT which banks use to report your interest income, Form 1099-MISC reports the income you earn as an independent contractor and Form 1099-G reports payments you receive from the government such as unemployment benefits. If you have certain deductible expenses, you may even receive various Form 1098s in the mail. These report your potential tax deductions, including mortgage interest, student loan interest, tuition payments and motor vehicle donations.

Obtaining tax forms

Whether the tax forms you need are for the current or prior years, you can easily access all of them when you use TurboTax to prepare your return – you don’t even need to know which forms are required for your tax return. We’ll just ask you simple questions and fill in all the right forms for you. Alternatively, you can search through the IRS website to download each form.

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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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