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What is a simple tax return?

3 min read

3 min read

Income tax, for some, is more straightforward than for others. You may have heard the term “simple tax return,” but this term can be really subjective because taxes can have so many nuances. Plus, tax preparation knowledge and experience varies from person to person.

Sometimes, a “simple tax return” is shorthand for taxpayers who can file for free. While that’s good context to keep in mind, it may not be the only way people think of a simple tax return. Knowing there can be various meanings to this concept, let’s take a look at the details.

What is considered a simple tax return?

woman completing a simple tax return

While there’s no official designation of a simple tax return, it generally boils down to taxes that are primarily prepared on IRS Form 1040. It often involves reporting taxable income from a single source, such as wages from a traditional W-2 job, claiming the IRS standard deduction, and perhaps a limited number of tax credits or other adjustments to income.

That said, there’s still no one type of simple tax return. Your filing status could be “Single” or “Married Filing Jointly.” You may be working and have W-2 income or retired with just some interest income. You may or may not have children. You may claim a tax credit — or not. Or, you may have a different tax rate than someone who also categorically would be considered as having a simple return. As you can see, it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly is considered a simple tax return.

What isn’t part of a simple tax return?

It may be easier to say that what a simple tax return isn’t versus saying what it is.

As you go through life your taxes can change based on new activities or income streams. For example, if you decide to start working for yourself (self-employment income), begin investing or have rental income, you’re also adding complexity to your taxes.

Consider home ownership, for example. Buying and owning a home means you might take different tax deductions. Sometimes, you’ll pay lower taxes if you itemize these deductions on another tax form along with your IRS Form 1040. The home mortgage interest deduction and property tax deductions are examples. Also, selling a home or other investments are just other examples of how your taxes may be affected during tax season.

The bottom line is: With more complicated taxes, you’ll file your Form 1040 and potentially several other tax forms or schedules to appropriately calculate and report your total tax bill.

Have a simple tax return? You may be able to file for free

If you have a simple tax situation, you may be able to file for free with our online tax software. To find out if you qualify, visit the H&R Block Free Online page for details as it can change from year to year.*

Get help with your tax return

Whether you choose to file with a tax professional or file with H&R Block Online, you can rest assured that we’ll get you the biggest tax refund possible, by getting you every tax credit and deduction you deserve.**

*: All tax situations are different. Additional fees may apply.

**: All tax situations are different. Not everyone gets a refund.

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