2021 Tax Returns: What's New on the 1040 Form This Year

If you're a last-minute filer, familiarize yourself with potential changes for your 2021 tax return before tackling your 1040.

picture of a 2021 Form 1040
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Time is running out if you haven't already filed your 2021 federal tax return. For most people, the tax return filing deadline is April 18 this year (residents of Maine and Massachusetts get one extra day). So, for all you tax procrastinators out there, it's time to get moving. One of the first things you should do is collect and organize your tax records. If you're going to file your own 1040, you should also check out tax software options. If you need more time to file your return, request a tax filing extension (although you'll still have to pay any tax you expect to owe). And, no matter when you fill out your 2021 tax return, you first want to familiarize yourself with the tax law changes that may impact it.

Many (but not all) of the new items on the 2021 1040 form come from the American Rescue Plan Act, which was enacted last March. This Covid-relief bill made changes to the child tax credit, child and dependent care credit, earned income tax credit, and more. Other changes stem from the expiration of earlier Covid-related provisions that expired at the end of 2020. There are a few modifications to some of the main 1040 schedules, too. And, of course, there are the normal inflation-based adjustments that occur every year.

There are many reasons why you should know and understanding these changes up front. First and foremost, it very well may result in a larger tax refund or a smaller tax bill. You're also likely to get through your return faster if you're already aware of any new twists and turns. If someone else prepares your 1040, it will be easier to catch any errors when you review the return. But since "Tax Day" is right around the corner, you don't have much time left to get up-to-speed on what's new and changed for your 2021 tax return. So take a look at our list below and study up now so you know what to look for before tackling your 1040.

Rocky Mengle

Rocky Mengle was a Senior Tax Editor for Kiplinger from October 2018 to January 2023 with more than 20 years of experience covering federal and state tax developments. Before coming to Kiplinger, Rocky worked for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting, and Kleinrock Publishing, where he provided breaking news and guidance for CPAs, tax attorneys, and other tax professionals. He has also been quoted as an expert by USA Today, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Reuters, Accounting Today, and other media outlets. Rocky holds a law degree from the University of Connecticut and a B.A. in History from Salisbury University.