The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides taxpayers filing individual tax returns three options: Form 1040ES, Form 1040A, and Form 1040. Form 1040EZ is for the simplest tax situations, while Form 1040 is for more complex tax situations.

Form 1040EZ is the simplest form to fill out, and can be used by taxpayers who meet specific conditions. Taxpayers must file either as single or married filing jointly. Filers must have no dependents, and must be under the age of 65. Total taxable income must be under $100,000, and the taxpayer may not currently be in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The filer must not owe any taxes on the employment of a household employee, such as a maid. Perhaps the biggest hurdle to using Form 1040EZ is that the filer cannot claim any income adjustments, including student loan interest deductions, deductions for retirement contributions, or any credit other than the earned income credit.

Form 1040 is the most complex of the form options for individual tax filers, but provides taxpayers with the most number of options for claiming deductions and credits. Taxpayers who are self-employed, such as freelancers or consultants, can only file a Form 1040. Certain other tax situations require taxpayers to use the Form 1040. These include having adjustments from Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) or income from a partnership or S corporation. If your employer did not withhold Social Security or Medicare taxes, or if you owe taxes for the use of a household employee. Any taxpayer with an adjusted gross income of more than $100,000 or who underreported tips is also required to file Form 1040.

Filing a Form 1040EZ instead of a Form 1040 may be simpler, but may result in the taxpayer missing important tax credits and deductions. As a rule of thumb, the longer the tax form is the more tax breaks are available.

  1. Can filing taxes with Form 1040EZ cost me money?

    Filing your taxes with Form 1040EZ may simplify the process, but it could also reduce the refund you're eligible to receive. Read Answer >>
  2. What's the difference between IRS Forms 1040EZ and 1040A?

    Two of the forms used for filing individual federal income tax returns are IRS Form 1040A and IRS Form 1040EZ (the third ... Read Answer >>
  3. How do I know whether to itemize deductions or take the standard deduction?

    Taking the standard deduction is the easiest and most common method chosen by filers, but many taxpayers may wind up paying ... Read Answer >>
  4. When would I need to use IRS Form 1040X when filing my tax return?

    If you've made a mistake on your tax return, you'll need to file a Form 1040X. Learn the details of what you need to do. Read Answer >>
  5. How do I find out what my tax bracket is?

    Learn the information you need to determine what your tax bracket is. Read Answer >>
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