Which Tax Form Should You File?

Which Tax Form Should You File?

For an individual taxpayer, there are three types of forms that can be filed depending on the situation

  • Form 1040/1040NR
  • Form 1040
  • Form 1040EZ/1040NR-EZ

The Form 1040 is a complete tax return that is applicable to all type of situations. The Form 1040A or 1040EZ are easy to complete as they are short forms but have restrictions on the type of income, expenses, credits that can be claimed on them.


The taxpayer can use a 1040A form if the following six conditions are met. Otherwise, file form 1040.

  1. Taxable income is less than $100,000
  2. Taxpayer will claim a standard deduction and not itemize deductions
  3. The taxpayer have income only from the following sources:
    • Wages, salaries, tips
    • Interest income
    • Ordinary dividends
    • Capital gain distributions
    • Alaska Permanent Fund dividends
    • Taxable scholarship and fellowship grants
    • Pensions, annuities, and IRAs
    •  Taxable social security and railroad retirement benefits.
    • Unemployment compensation
  4. The adjustments that a taxpayer can claim are only limited to following:
    • IRA deduction
    • Educator deduction
    • Student loan interest deduction
  5. Can only claim the following credits
    • Credit for the elderly or the disabled
    • Education credits
    • Retirement savings contributions credit
    • Credit for child and dependent care expenses
    • Child tax credit
    • Additional child tax credit
    • Earned income credit
    •  Premium tax credit
  6. Taxpayer has no alternative minimum tax adjustment on the exercise of stock option


The taxpayer can use 1040EZ form if the following six conditions are met. Otherwise, file form 1040A or 1040.

  1. Taxpayer’s filing status is single or married filing jointly
  2. Taxpayer cannot claim dependents
  3. Taxpayer cannot claim any adjustments to income
  4. Taxpayer cannot claim any credits other than earned income credit
  5. If an interest income is received, the taxpayer isn’t required to file Schedule B
  6. The taxable income must be less than $100,000. The income must not include anything other than wages, salaries, tips, taxable scholarship or fellowship grants, unemployment compensation, or Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, and taxable interest cannot be over $1,500.
  7. The tips must be reported on Form W-2 in boxes 5 and 7
  8. The taxpayer must not owe any household employment taxes on wages paid to a household employee
  9. The taxpayer is not a debtor in a chapter 11 bankruptcy case filed after October 16, 2005.
  10. Advance payments of the premium tax credit weren’t made by the taxpayer, spouse, or any individual enrolled in coverage for whom no one else is claiming the personal exemption
  11. Advance payments of the health coverage tax credit weren’t made for the taxpayer, spouse, or other qualifying family member
  12. Taxpayer and the spouse (if filing jointly) must be under 65 years of age and are not blind at the end of the taxation year 


If the taxpayer doesn’t meet the criteria for 1040A or 1040EZ then 1040 needs to be filed.


2018 Update 

Forms 1040A and 1040-EZ aren’t available to file your 2018 taxes.

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