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Form 1040, Individual Income Tax Return

IRS Form 1040 is your personal (not business) federal tax return. The 1040 tax return is due on Tax Day, on or around April 15. When you file Form 1040, you’ll need your taxpayer and dependent information, including income and exemptions. Individuals can apply for a six-month filing extension if needed. Redesigned in 2018, Form 1040 replaces Form 1040-A and Form 1040-EZ that was previously filed.

Who Should File Form 1040?

Individuals who earned income during the prior tax year should file Form 1040. Not all, however, are required to file. If your gross income is at or above the required threshold for your filing status (see below), you must file a return.

If your filing status is…And at the end of the previous year you were…File if your gross income was at least…
Singleunder 65
65 or older
$12,550
$14,250
Married filing jointlyunder 65 (both spouses)
65 or older (one spouse)
65 or older (both spouses)
$25,100
$26,450
$27,800
Married filing separatelyany age$5
Head of householdunder 65
65 or older
$18,800
$20,500
Qualifying widow(er)under 65
65 or older
$25,100
$26,450
Source: Internal Revenue Service

If you are claimed as a dependent on another taxpayer’s return, you may be required to file Form 1040. See the charts below to determine if you must file a return.

Single Dependents

Were you 65 or older or blind?File if any of the following apply…
No
  • unearned income over $1,100
  • earned income over $12,550
  • your gross income was the larger of $1,100 or your earned income (up to $12,200) plus $350
Yes, 65 or older
  • unearned income over $2,800
  • earned income over $14,250
  • your gross income was the larger of $2,800 or your earned income (up to $12,200) plus $2,050
Yes, 65 or older and blind
  • unearned income over $4,500
  • earned income over $15,950
  • your gross income was the larger of $4,500 or your earned income (up to $12,200) plus $3,750
Source: Internal Revenue Service

Married Dependents

Were you 65 or older or blind?File if any of the following apply…
No
  • unearned income over $1,100
  • earned income over $12,550
  • your gross income was the larger of $1,100 or your earned income (up to $12,200) plus $350
  • your gross income was at least $5 and your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions
Yes, 65 or older
  • unearned income over $2,450
  • earned income over $13,900
  • your gross income was the larger of $2,450 or your earned income (up to $12,200) plus $1,700
  • your gross income was at least $5 and your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions
Yes, 65 or older and blind
  • unearned income over $3,800
  • earned income over $15,250
  • your gross income was the larger of $3,800 or your earned income (up to $12,200) plus $3,050
  • your gross income was at least $5 and your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions
Source: Internal Revenue Service

For the above charts, unearned income includes taxable interest, ordinary dividends, capital gain distributions, unemployment compensation, taxable Social Security benefits, pensions, annuities, and trust distributions. Earned income includes wages and salaries, as well as tips, professional fees, and any taxable scholarships or fellowship grants. Gross income is the total of both your unearned and earned income.

Other Situations When You Must File Form 1040

Even if your income is below the required thresholds stated above, other situations may require you to file Form 1040. Per the IRS, you must file a return if any of these conditions apply to you.

  1. You owe special taxes, such as:
    • Alternative minimum tax
    • Additional tax on a qualified plan, including IRAs or other tax-favored accounts
    • Household employment taxes
    • Social Security and Medicare tax on unreported tips
    • Write-in taxes
    • Recapture taxes
  2. You (or your spouse, if married filing jointly) received Archer MSA, Medicare Advantage MSA, or other health savings account distributions.
  3. You have self-employment net earnings of $400 or more.
  4. You have wages of $108.28 or more from a church (or church-controlled organization) that is exempt from employer Social Security and Medicare taxes.
  5. You received advance payments of the premium tax credit for you, your spouse, or a dependent enrolled in coverage through the Marketplace. These amounts are reported on Form 1095-A, which should have been sent to the enrolled person(s).
  6. You received advance payments of the health coverage tax credit for you, your spouse, or a dependent enrolled in coverage through the Marketplace. These amounts are reported on Form 1099-H, which should have been sent to the enrolled person(s).
  7. You are required to include income amounts under section 965 or you have a net tax liability under section 965 that you are paying in installments under section 965(h) or deferred by making an election under section 965(i).

If you’re not sure if you need to file a return, reach out to a tax professional for guidance. Failure to file a required tax return can result in penalties and interest fees.

IRS Form 1040 Helpful Hints

When it comes time to submit your tax return, be sure you are filing all required forms. In some cases, you may only need to file Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR (for taxpayers 65 and older). For more complicated tax situations, however, you may also need to include one or more of the numbered schedules. The IRS offers guidance on when you may need to complete certain schedules. Use the handy chart below to help determine which you should include with your return.

IF YOU…THEN USE…
Have additional income, such as unemployment compensation, gambling winnings, prize or award money, as well as business or farm income or loss.Schedule 1, Part I
Have deductions to claim, such as educator expenses, self-employment tax, or student loan interest.Schedule 1, Part II  
Owe alternative minimum tax (AMT) or need to make an excess advance premium tax credit payment.Schedule 2, Part I
Owe other taxes, such as household employment taxes, self-employment taxes, or additional tax on qualified retirement plans and tax-favored accounts.Schedule 2, Part II
Can claim a non-refundable credit (excluding the non-refundable Child Tax Credit or Credit for Other Dependents). This may include education credits, foreign tax credits, or general business credits.Schedule 3, Part I
Can claim a refundable tax credit (excluding Earned Income Credit, American Opportunity Credit, the refundable Child Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit, as well as the Recovery Rebate Credit), such as the health coverage tax credit or net premium tax credit.Schedule 3, Part II
Have other payments, including “request for extension to file” payments or excess Social Security tax withheld.Schedule 3, Part II
Source: Internal Revenue Service

Should I File If I’m Not Required To Submit a Tax Return?

Even if you aren’t required to file a return, you should do so to get a refund of any federal taxes withheld. You should also file if you are eligible to receive any of the following tax credits:

  • Earned Income Credit
  • Recovery Rebate Credit
  • Refundable Child Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit
  • Child and Dependent Care Credit
  • American Opportunity Credit
  • Premium Tax Credit
  • Credit For Federal Tax Paid on Fuels
  • Health Coverage Tax Credit
  • Credits For Sick and Family Leave

Should I File By Mail or Electronically?

The fastest way to receive your refund and reduce processing delays is to submit your tax return electronically. If you do not have a computer at home, you can generally access one for free at your local library.

Need Help?

If you need assistance with completing your tax returns, please contact Tax Defense Network at 833-803-4222 for a tax preparation quote.

You can also find instructions on how to complete Form 1040, as well as all worksheets and schedules on IRS.gov.

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