What Is Form 1040?

Form 1040 Explained

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Definition

IRS Form 1040 is a tax return used by individual filers.

Definition and Examples of Form 1040

Form 1040 is the standard individual tax filing form distributed by the Internal Revenue Service. Taxpayers use this form to file for returns or payments.

2021 Form 1040

Who Uses Form 1040

All taxpayers in the U.S. are required to file taxes using Form 1040—or one of its variants—and any necessary schedules to report taxable income. More specifically, taxpayers who meet the following requirements must file a Form 1040.

Status At the end of 2021 you were Had a gross income of
Single under 65
65 or older
$12,550
$14,250 
Married filing jointly  under 65 (both spouses)
65 or older (one spouse)
65 or older (both spouses)
$25,100
$26,450
$27,800 
Married filing separately  any age $5
Head of household  under 65
65 or older
$18,800
$20,500 
Qualifying widow(er)  under 65
65 or older
$25,100
$26,450 

Types of Form 1040

There are eight versions of Form 1040 available. Each one is designed for different taxpayers. The most common are Forms 1040 and 1040 SR:

  • Form 1040: Standard individual tax form
  • Form 1040 SR: Form for individuals 65 and older

These forms are derived from the 1040 but are used under special circumstances:

  • Form 1040 PR: Form for self-employed Puerto Ricans
  • Form 1040-C: Departing nonresident
  • Form 1040-ES: Estimated individual tax form
  • Form 1040-NR: Nonresident tax form
  • Form 1040-SS: Form for self-employed individuals in the Virgin Islands, Guam, Samoa
  • Form 1040-X: Amended tax returns

Schedules

You may need to fill out one or several schedules in addition to Form 1040, depending on your situation. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Schedule 1: Additional Income and Adjustments to Income
  • Schedule 2: Additional Taxes
  • Schedule 3: Additional Credits and Payments
  • Schedule A: Itemized Deductions
  • Schedule B: Interest and Ordinary Dividends
  • Schedule C: Profit or Loss From Business

If you need a different schedule, the IRS lists them on its forms and publications webpage.

The three numbered schedules detail your taxes, credits claimed, payments made, additional income not reported directly on Form 1040, and adjustments to income. The totals from these schedules are then transferred to the tax return.

Where to Get Form 1040

All reputable tax-preparation software should have the most up-to-date From 1040 for the tax year you're filing for in the spring. You can also download and print a copy from the IRS website. The form is interactive, so you can complete it online, print it out, and mail in a paper return.

Ensure the Form 1040 you're downloading is for the correct tax year. The year always appears in the center at the very top of the first page.

How to Fill Out and Read Form 1040

Filling out your Form 1040 may not seem all that different if you file online via a guided tax-prep tool. Whether you fill it out, print it, file it, work with an accountant, or use online software, it helps to know what to expect before filing.

Note

Tax Day is generally April 15, unless it falls on a weekend. For the 2022 tax season, you must file your 2021 taxes by Monday, April 18—that's when Form 1040 is due.

Form 1040 is two pages long with several sections.

Filing Status

This section is where you state your filing status—whether you're filing as single, married jointly, married separately, head of household, or as a qualifying widow(er). You'll also include your personal information there, including name, address, Social Security number, and more.

Standard Deduction

Here, you'll state whether someone can claim you or your spouse as a dependent. There's also a box to check if your spouse itemizes their return separately or if you started the tax year as a non-resident of the U.S. and then gained residence. (The IRS labels people in this situation "dual-status aliens.")

There's also a subsection here for "Age/Blindness," which asks about you and your spouse's birth years and whether either of you is currently blind.

Dependents

If you have dependents, this is where you'll list their name, Social Security number, relationship to you, and tax credits that apply.

Lines 1 to 33

This is the main section of the form. On lines 1 through 33, you'll fill in information such as wages, salaries, tips; qualified dividends; pensions and annuities, Social Security benefits; capital gains or losses; charitable contributions, and more. Line 15 is where you'll figure out and write in your taxable income. Line 15 is also the last line on page 1.

Page 2 starts with line 16, and you'll be asked for information regarding tax withheld (from W-2 forms or 1099 forms), child tax or other dependent credits, the earned income credit, amounts from other forms and schedules, and more.

Line 32 is where you figure out your total other payments and refundable credits, and line 33 is where you learn what your total payments are.

Refund

You'll learn whether you are owed a refund in this section of Form 1040. You can also include your bank account info if you'd like to receive the refund via direct deposit.

Amount You Owe

If you are not owed a refund—that is, if line 33 is less than line 24 on the form—you owe taxes. This is where you'll figure that out, plus whether there's any estimated tax penalty.

Third-Party Designation

This is where you'll let the IRS know whether you are comfortable with another person discussing your tax return with the agency.

Sign Here

Finally, you'll need to sign and date the return, agreeing that all of the information you provided is accurate to the best of your knowledge.

Can Form 1040 Be E-Filed?

Not only can Form 1040 be e-filed, but the IRS strongly urges taxpayers to do so. The agency provides a list of e-filing options on its website.

Where To Mail Form 1040

If you don’t want to e-file, the address to which you should mail a paper copy of Form 1040 depends on your state of residence and whether you owe taxes. The IRS offers a complete list of addresses for each circumstance and each state on its website.

Key Takeaways

  • Form 1040 is the standard tax return that individual taxpayers can use to file their taxes.
  • Form 1040 has several schedules that may also need to be filed along with it during tax season, depending on your situation.
  • You can mail a paper copy of Form 1040 to the IRS, though the agency strongly recommends e-filing your return.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a 1040 form?

A 1040 form, also known as Form 1040, is the federal tax return that many taxpayers will use to file their taxes in the spring every year. It's the official form from the IRS that helps you figure out what your taxable income was for the year and whether you owe the federal government any money.

Which Form 1040 should you use?

There are a few versions of Form 1040. The regular standard tax return form is the main Form 1040. There is also Form 1040-SR, which is for adults over the age of 65. 1040-SR mirrors Form 1040, but with larger font. There are also Form 1040-X for amending past tax returns and Form 1040-NR for taxpayers who are not U.S. residents.

Who Needs to File Form 1040?

All individuals taxpayers in the U.S. must file taxes using one of the form 1040 variants.

Updated by
Hilarey Gould
Hilarey Gould
Hilarey Gould has spent 10+ years in the digital media space, where she's developed a passion for helping people understand economics, saving, investing, credit card perks, mortgage rates, and more. Hilarey is the editorial director for The Balance and has held full-time and freelance roles at a variety of financial media companies including realtor.com, Bankrate, and SmartAsset. She has a master's in journalism from the University of Missouri, and a bachelor's in journalism and professional writing from The College of New Jersey (TCNJ).
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Sources
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Internal Revenue Service. "Form 1040 and 1040-SR Helpful Hints."

  2. Internal Revenue Service. "Forms and Publications."

  3. Internal Revenue Service. "Form 1040."

  4. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 509: Tax Calendars," Page 4.

  5. Internal Revenue Service. "Taxation of Dual-Status Alien."

  6. Internal Revenue Service. "Where to File Addresses for Taxpayers and Tax Professionals Filing Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR."

  7. Internal Revenue Service. "Form 1040-X."

  8. Internal Revenue Service. "Form 1040-NR."

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