1040EZ, 1040A, and 1040 Tax Filing

What is the difference between 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ?

Choosing the right one can be a little confusing. But we want to make it plain so you can file the right form and get every credit and deduction you’re entitled to.

The three most common forms are the 1040A and 1040EZ – for simple tax situations – and the 1040, for more complex ones.

Narrow It Down

There are a few conditions that will help you narrow your options. Are you:

  • Claiming dependents. You will file either the 1040A or 1040.
  • Self-employed. You will file the 1040.
  • Single and your taxable income is less than $100,000. You will file either 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ!
  • In a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. You will file the 1040.

Let’s Make It Plain

If the above criteria haven’t determined which form you should file, let’s try looking at it by typical tax situation:

I HAVE NO DEPENDENTS, I’M NOT SELF-EMPLOYED, AND I MAKE LESS THAN $100,000

Form 1040EZ is the simplest to fill out. Generally, you’ll file a 1040EZ if all of the following are true:

  • Your filing status is single or married filing jointly.
  • You don’t claim dependents.
  • Your taxable income is less than $100,000.
  • Your taxable interest is $1,500 or less.
  • You don’t claim adjustments to income, like student loan interest deduction or an IRA deduction.
  • The only credit you claim is the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • You, and your spouse, if filing a joint return, were under age 65 and not blind at the end of 2016. If you were born on Jan. 1, 1952, you’re considered to be age 65 at the end of 2016 and can’t use Form 1040EZ.
  • You don’t owe household employment taxes on wages you paid to a household employee.
  • You aren’t a debtor in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case filed after Oct. 16, 2005.
  • Advance payments of the premium tax credit were not made for you, your spouse, or any individual you enrolled in coverage for whom no one else is claiming the personal exemption.
  • Your income sources were only wages, salaries, tips, taxable scholarships, taxable fellowship grants, unemployment compensation, Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, or interest.
  • You cannot file the 1040 EZ if you claimed an Advance Premium Tax Credit.

If you file Form 1040EZ, you can’t itemize tax deductions or claim any adjustments to income or tax credits (other than the earned income credit). You also can’t earn income from self-employment, alimony, dividends (other than Alaska permanent fund dividends) or capital gains.

You also cannot claim any tax credits such as the child tax credit, the credit for child and dependent-care expenses, education credits, and others. The exception is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC).

I’M NOT SELF-EMPLOYED AND I WANT TO CLAIM A STANDARD DEDUCTION (WITHOUT ITEMIZING).

Form 1040A is longer than the simple Form 1040EZ, but more limited than Form 1040. Only certain types of income can be reported and a limited selection of credits can be claimed on Form 1040A.Itemized deductions cannot be claimed on Form 1040A. Any taxpayer may use the 1040A as long as these requirements are fulfilled:

  • Your taxable income is less than $100,000.
  • Your taxable income comes from the following sources:
    • Wages, salaries, and tips
    • Interest and ordinary dividends
    • Capital gain distributions
    • Taxable scholarship and fellowship grants
    • Pensions, annuities, and IRAs
    • Unemployment compensation
    • Taxable Social Security and railroad retirement benefits
    • Alaska Permanent Fund dividends

You may claim the following adjustments to income with Form 1040A:

  • The IRA deduction
  • The student loan interest deduction
  • Educator expenses
  • The tuition and fees deduction

Since deductions can’t be claimed on Form 1040A, expenses such as charitable donations or mortgage interest paid cannot be deducted. You also can’t use Form 1040A if you have an Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) adjustment on stock acquired from exercising an incentive stock option.

I WANT TO ITEMIZE MY DEDUCTIONS, I AM SELF-EMPLOYED, OR MY INCOME IS OVER $100,000

Form 1040 is the most complex of the three major individual tax forms, which means it gives you the most options. You can report all types of income, expenses, and credits on a 1040 – and it offers the opportunity to take advantage of tax breaks that aren’t available on the 1040EZ or 1040A.

If you receive these types of income, you must file a 1040:

  • Self-employment income
  • Tips you didn’t report to your employer
  • Income you receive as a partner in a partnership, a shareholder in an S corporation or beneficiary of an estate or trust
  • Insurance policy dividends totaling more than the premiums you paid
  • Distributions from a foreign trust

You also must file a 1040 if any of the following situations apply:

  • You qualify for and elect to use the foreign earned income exclusion.
  • You qualify to exclude income from sources in Puerto Rico or American Samoa because you were a bona fide resident of either.
  • You have an Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) adjustment on stock acquired from exercising an incentive stock option.
  • You owe excise tax on insider stock compensation from an expatriated corporation.
  • You’re reporting an Original Issue Discount (OID) amount that doesn’t match the amount on Form 1099-OID.
  • You owe household employment taxes.
  • You’re eligible for the health coverage tax credit.
  • You’re claiming the Adoption Credit or you received employer-provided adoption benefits.
  • You’re a debtor in a bankruptcy case filed after Oct. 16, 2005.
  • Your employer didn’t withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes from your pay.
  • You had a qualified health savings account (HSA) funding distribution from your IRA.
  • You’re repaying the first-time homebuyer credit.
  • You have certain foreign financial assets that you must report.
  • You owe additional Medicare Tax or had Additional Medicare Tax withheld.
  • You owe Net Investment Income Tax.

The 1040 offers the most options that allow you to take advantage of itemizing your deductions and possibly increasing your refund.

Which Tax Form is Right For You?

The experts at H&R Block can look at your personal tax situation and decide which tax form is right for you. And if you’d rather file your taxes yourself, know you are still backed by our 100% accuracy and maximum refund guarantees. In an office or online, don’t just get your taxes done. Get your taxes won with H&R Block.

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