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Do you need to file a 1040 tax form?

·4 min read
The 1040 form is used to report personal income for federal tax purposes.  / Credit: Daniel Acker
The 1040 form is used to report personal income for federal tax purposes. / Credit: Daniel Acker

Form 1040 is the standard form for reporting your income, deductions, dependents and other tax details to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It's usually referred to as an Individual Tax Return.

While most working Americans need to file 1040 annually, that's not true for everyone. Do you need to file one? And if so, what will you need to do so? Here's what you'll want to know.

Read on to learn more about 1040 tax forms, and when you may need to file one.

What is a 1040 tax form?

The 1040 form is used to report personal income for federal tax purposes. You use it to add up your wages, benefits, distributions and other forms of income to determine if you owe additional federal taxes (more than those already taken out of your paychecks) or if you are due a tax refund.

You'll also use a 1040 to account for any tax deductions you may be eligible for, like those for dependents, mortgage interest or charitable contributions you made over the course of the previous year. If you're not sure which deductions you may qualify for, consider turning to an expert. Learn more.

You can retrieve a 1040 form from IRS.gov, by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM or through tax filing software. You'll need to file your form with the IRS by tax day — typically April 15 — for all income earned in the previous year. In some cases, you may be eligible for an extension of up to six months.

Types of 1040 forms

If you're self-employed or run your own small business, you may need a 1040-ES instead of the traditional Form 1040. These are forms used by self-employed people who don't have taxes automatically withheld from their earnings. You may also use these on other types of earnings, like investment dividends, rent (if you're a landlord), alimony and more.

There are also 1040-NRs, (for nonresident aliens), 1040-SRs (for seniors) and 1040-Xs (if you need to amend a previously filed tax return.

Check out the different forms here. Plus, find out how you can get some tax relief in the future.

Who uses a 1040 tax form?

The majority of Americans who earn income need to file a 1040 tax return every year. There are some exceptions, though — at least if your earnings fall under a certain threshold.

Here's what those look like for 2022:

Filing Status

Age at the end of 2021

Gross income

Single

< 65

$12,550

65+

$14,250

Head of household

< 65

$18,800

65+

$20,500

Married, filing joint returns

< 65 (both spouses)

$25,100

65+ (one spouse)

$26,450

65+ (both spouses)

$27,800

Married, filing separate returns

All ages

$5

Widow/widower

<65

$25,100

65+

$26,450

Generally speaking, if you only receive Social Security income, you won't need to file a 1040 or pay income taxes on the amount. If you have other income, though, you may need to file an annual return and pay income taxes on a portion of your earnings. The Social Security Administration has more details if this might apply to you.

Other tax forms you might need

A Form 1040 is the main document you'll use to file your annual tax returns, but you'll usually need a number of other tax forms, too.

Some of these might include:

W-2: A W-2 is a wage and tax statement. You'll get one annually from your employer detailing how much you made in the calendar year and how much in Social Security, Medicare and income taxes was withheld. You can use this to fill out your 1040 form, but you don't need to actually submit the document with your return.1099: Companies provide 1099 forms to workers and contractors paid at least $600 across the calendar year. As with the W-2, you can use this form to fill out your 1040 but don't need to submit the form along with your return.

If you're not sure what tax forms you need to file your return or if you're missing some forms from your employer, talk to your tax preparer for more guidance. They can help ensure you obtain the right documents and can file your returns properly and meet all IRS deadlines.