Posted: 02 Feb 2017 05:40 AM PST
Tax season successfully opened on January 23, 2017. If you’re one of the estimated 157 million taxpayers who will file an individual income tax return this year, here’s your quick cheat sheet for figuring out which tax form to file. For a deeper dive into the requirements for each form, check out this post.
(Remember, depending on your circumstances, you may not need to file at all in 2017 – here’s what you need to know about who must file a tax return.)
If your only income in 2016 was from Social Security OR if your gross income is less than $10,350 if filing single ($20,700 if married filing jointly) then you may not need to file a federal income tax return in 2017. You may still need to file if you are self-employed or if you received a premium tax credit payment.
If your filing status is single or married filing jointly with no dependents AND you only received wages, salaries, W-2 tips, taxable scholarship/fellowship grants, unemployment compensation AND taxable interest of less than $1,500, then you may be able to file form 1040EZ. Income limits and exceptions apply.
If the only tax credits you intend to claim are the nontaxable combat pay election tax or the EITC, Earned Income Tax Credit (your income from working for someone or from running your own business must be less than the income limits), then you may be able to file a form 1040EZ. Income limits and other rules apply.
If your taxable income for 2016 is less than $100,000 and does not include tips not reported on a form W-2, then you may be able to file form 1040EZ or form 1040-A. Additional rules and exceptions apply.
If you intend to claim one of the following “above the line” adjustments: the IRA deduction, the student loan interest deduction, the educator expenses deduction, or the tuition and fees deduction, then you can file a form 1040A or a form 1040 so long as you meet the other criteria. You may not file a form 1040EZ.
If you must make an individual shared responsibility payment because you or a member of your family did not have health care coverage or qualify for an exemption in 2016 then you can file form 1040EZ, form 1040A, or a form 1040. You cannot use form 1040EZ to report advance payments or to claim the premium tax credit.
If you owe household employment taxes because you have household employees (anyone who performs household work and can be classed as an employee because you exercise control over their duties) including housekeepers, babysitters, cleaners, gardeners, nannies, and drivers, then you must file a form 1040.
If you or your spouse are blind (meaning you can’t see better than 20/200 with glasses or contact lenses, or your field of vision is 20 degrees or less) or you are over age 65 and intend to claim one or more additional standard deductions (more on higher standard deductions here), then you must file a form 1040.
If you have self-employment income and will file a Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business OR if you have income from rents or royalties and will file a Schedule E, Supplemental Income and Loss OR if you will report realized gains or losses on Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses, then you must file a form 1040.
If you intend to itemize your deductions (including medical expenses, real estate taxes, home mortgage interest, charitable donations, casualty and theft losses, un-reimbursed job expenses, and tax preparation expenses) then you must file a form 1040. Most taxpayers will claim the standard deduction.
If you know that you have to file a federal income tax return for 2016 but aren’t sure which form then you should file a form 1040. There’s no downside to filling out a form 1040 – other than complexity – since you can use it to claim all of your deductions and credits.