How to Determine Which Tax Forms You Need to File

Filing taxes in the US isn’t complicated because you have to gather all your tax information together. The complexity comes with deciding exactly which tax forms you need to file. If you’re preparing your tax form manually, you need to think about what forms you need to file and balance it with how long you want to spend on filing.

There are a total of three forms you can file for standard income tax, and these are:

  •          Form 1040. (Standard tax form)
  •          Form 1040A. (Smaller set of lines for income reports and deductions)
  •          Form 1040EZ. (Shortest form and the quickest one to file)

Form 1040EZ

If you want to file this form, you have to make sure you come under certain criteria. There are lots of different criteria you have to meet, but we’re going to go through the main ones here. First of all, your taxable income must fall under $100,000. Your income from interest must also fall under $1,500. Furthermore, you can’t file this form if any of your income comes from self-employed activities.

There are also age and status guidelines. You must be under the age of 65 and you must be either single or filing as a married person.

Form 1040A

The vast majority of taxpayers in the US today will qualify to file with Form 1040A. This short form allows you to file everything you need if you aren’t itemising any deductions. Again, it comes with its own set of guidelines you have to follow.

Your taxable income has to fall under $100,000, but your age and filing status isn’t a determining factor in whether you can use this form.

Parents should consider using this form for college age students. This can help get students to qualify for larger financial aid packages due to the simplified needs test they would fall under.

Form 1040

Form 1040 is the long form and the standard form a lot of US taxpayers will use. It takes longer to fill out, but it’s flexible. You can use it for practically any tax situation. For example, you can use it if you have a taxable income of over $100,000. You can also itemize deductions, such as charitable donations and mortgage interest. It’s also the form you should use if you have any additional income from rental properties, businesses, and trust funds.

Additional IRS Forms

There are other IRS forms you may need to use in specific circumstances. Keep reading to find out if these forms suit your specific situation.

Form 709 is the United States Gift Tax Return. If you gave more than $14,000 to any individual, this is what you need to file alongside a Form 1040.

Form 114 is what you need to file if you have any foreign bank accounts. This only applies if you have more than $10,000 held in a foreign bank account. This is where it gets complicated because you have to file this directly with the US Treasury Department.

Overall, figuring out which form you need to file is just a matter of assessing your own status and seeing which form your status matches up with. If you’re confused and need to pick a form, always go with the standard Form 1040. You can’t go wrong with it, even if you do happen to qualify for one of the other shorter forms.

If you’re struggling to pick a form, your best option is to work with an accountant. They will be able to advise you on what form will suit your situation. Remember to conduct due diligence prior to employing any accountant to aid you, though.


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