What Is IRS Publication 17?

IRS Publication 17 is an informational document published by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that outlines the rules governing the filing of federal individual income tax returns. The form provides information particularly about tax form 1040, which is used to file individual federal income tax returns.

IRS Publication 17 can be accessed on the IRS website.

The 2020 federal income tax filing due date for most individuals has been extended from April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021. Payment of taxes owed can be delayed to the same date without penalty. Your state tax deadline may not be delayed.


If you live in Texas, your deadline for filing your 2020 taxes and paying any tax due has been moved to June 15, 2021, due to the snowstorm-related federal disaster declaration. If you don't live in Texas but were affected by the storm, you may still be eligible.

Key Takeaways

  • IRS Publication 17 spells out the basic rules and guidelines for individuals filing federal income taxes.
  • Publication 17 states who must file tax returns and outlines what information is required on tax form 1040.
  • The publication is updated each year as needed and appears on the IRS website.

Understanding IRS Publication 17

In Publication 17, which is updated annually, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) outlines who must file a federal individual income tax return, the forms taxpayers must use when filling out the return, how many exemptions they can take, when the return is due, and how to file the return itself. The publication helps taxpayers identify their filing status, whether they can claim dependents, what type of deductions are available, and what credits are available to reduce tax obligations.

The document covers a broad set of topics, most of which are explained in further detail in other IRS publications. Examples include the treatment of mortgage interest expense, sales of property, dividend income, casualty and theft losses, and tuition expenses.

Publication 17 does not cover business taxes for the self-employed, which are covered in Publication 334 (Tax Guide for Small Business), Publication 535 (Business Expenses), and Publication 587 (Business Use of Your Home).

Form 1040

Form 1040 needs to be filed with the IRS by April 15 in most years. Everyone who earns income over a certain threshold must file an income tax return with the IRS (businesses have different forms to report their profits).

One recent change: Form 1040-A and Form 1040-EZ—simplified forms used in past years—have been eliminated.

The 1040 form was revised for 2018 after the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The new, shorter 1040 is billed as easier to use.

The most commonly used lines on the previous years' 1040s remain on the new form. Other lines are now on new schedules and are organized by categories.

Taxpayers who routinely use tax preparation software may not even notice the changes as the software will automatically transfer over the information.