Which Tax Form to Use
For some taxpayers, tax time is easy -- as in EZ. They are the ones who can use the IRS’s simplest tax form to complete their annual duty. (If you file electronically, the software automatically selects the simplest form for you. E-filing also speeds up the processing of your return and the delivery of your refund.)
You can use Form 1040EZ if you are single or married with no dependents, you have taxable income of $100,000 or less, and you are younger than age 65. Plus, your taxable interest income from bank accounts and bonds can’t exceed $1,500 in order for you to use the simplest tax-filing form.
The Long and Short of It
If your tax situation is a little more complicated, choose Form 1040A, also known as the short form. You can use this form if your taxable income is $100,000 or less and you do not itemize your deductions.
However, unlike Form 1040EZ, the short form lets you claim a number of “above the line” deductions, including up to $250 of out-of-pocket expenses for educational supplies if you are a teacher or educational professional; tax-deductible contributions to an IRA; and deductions for college tuition and fees or interest paid on a student loan.
Choosing the short form also allows you to take advantage of a variety of tax credits, which are even more valuable than tax deductions. A tax credit reduces your tax bill dollar-for-dollar; a tax deduction merely reduces the amount of income that is taxed. For example, if you are in the 25% tax bracket, a $1,000 deduction would reduce your tax bill by just $250, but a $1,000 tax credit would slash your tax liability by the full $1,000.
If you have taxable income of $100,000 or more, you itemize your deductions on Schedule A, or you need to file any special forms to report self-employment income, investment gains and losses, or rental or partnership income, you must use Form 1040, also known as the long form.