What is an Individual Tax Return

An individual tax return is a form the individual submits to a federal, state or local taxing agency to report income, calculate and pay taxes. The disclosure of pertinent information assists in assessing the tax due. 

The Internal Revenue Service is the taxing authority in the U.S. The United States has a voluntary reporting system that permits the electronic or hard-copy filing of individual tax returns. Countries around the world have taxing agencies who oversee tax collection. Some tax agencies provide individual taxpayers with pre-filled individual tax returns, while others require the taxpayer fill and file the returns on their own. Also, some countries permit electronic filing of online returns, while others insist on a documentary, hard-copy submission.

BREAKING DOWN Individual Tax Return

The individual tax return is a type of income tax return filed by an individual. Both single and married taxpayers, with and without dependents, file a return. Individual filers always file their returns on a version of Form 1040. Every individual filer who earns a certain amount of income must file this type of tax return.

Individual taxpayers complete Form 1040, Form 1040A, or Form 1040-EZ. Once complete, the taxpayer will submit the form by the day which falls on or near April 15th of each year. The selection of the individual tax return form to complete depends on the individual's filing status, their income, the deduction they wish to claim, and any credits that are due to their specific situation. There is also Form 4868 if extensions are necessary.

Every U.S. state, even those without a state income tax, has a state taxing authority. This agency oversees the annual collection of state tax. Taxpayers file individual state tax returns unique to the state. Most state tax returns assess and calculate tax concerning line items from the federal tax return.

Three Individual Tax Return Forms

Form 1040 is a densely packed two-page form with an abundance of schedules to complete. Any taxpayer up to the challenge may use this individual tax return form. However, individuals with dependents, income above $100,000, and who itemize deductions must use IRS Form 1040. Form 1040 is the most complex of all individual tax filing documents to complete. This document gives taxpayers the ability to submit information on complex investments, itemized deductions, and various tax credits.

Form 1040A is a two-page individual tax return for those with dependents and an income below $100,000. Allowable income sources are wages, salary, tips, capital gains, dividends, interest, unemployment compensation, pensions, annuities, Social Security, railroad retirement, taxable scholarships, and the Alaska Permanent Fund dividends. To use this form, the taxpayer must take the standard deduction. The 1040A is a simplified version of Form 1040. Individuals may file under any of the five filing statuses, single, head of household, married filing separately, married filing jointly, or widowed.

Form 1040EZ is a one-page individual tax return form for filers with no dependents and income below $100,000. Taxpayers must take the standard deduction and file as either a single taxpayer or married filing jointly taxpayer. Only the earned income credit (EIC) may be claimed as a deduction on this form. 

Other Forms to Report Individual Taxes

Individual tax return for submitting income tax is not the only form that a taxpayer may need to complete. An example is the gift tax where the taxpayer must file IRS Form 709 and pay the gift tax owed. Some individuals are required to estimate their annual tax and pay it by the quarter, or every 3-months on Form 1040ES. Payment of estimated tax is returned with Form 1040V to the regional IRS office which serves their state. We all make mistakes sometimes. If a taxpayer needs to amend their individual tax return, they will use Form 1040X.