Which Income Tax Form To Use - 1040EZ, 1040A, 1040

The quick answer to the which income tax form to use question is to use the simplest form possible. The IRS Form 1040EZ short form is the simplest, followed by Form 1040A, leaving the Form 1040 long form as the catch all for those with complex income tax filing situations. Each income tax form has a corresponding instructions booklet. Within the first section of each instruction booklet PDF, the IRS explains which income tax form to use. Below is an overview of the information found inside each 1040EZ, 1040A, and 1040 instructions booklet.

Form 1040EZ

US citizens and resident aliens may use the simplest Form 1040EZ short form if they meet all of the following conditions:

  • Your taxable income is less than $100,000.
  • Your taxable interest was not over $1,500.
  • Your filing status is single or married filing jointly.
  • You claim no dependents.
  • You (and your spouse) were under age 65 on January 1, 2015.
  • You (and your spouse) were not blind at the end of 2014.
  • Your income is only from wages, salaries, tips, taxable scholarship and fellowship grants, unemployment compensation, or Alaska Permanent Fund dividends.
  • Your earned tips, if any, are included in boxes 5 and 7 of your Form W-2.
  • You do not claim any adjustments to income.
  • You do not claim any credits other than the earned income credit.
  • You do not owe any household employment taxes on wages you paid to a household employee.
  • You are not a debtor in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.
  • Advance payments of the premium tax credit were not made for you, your spouse, or any individual you enrolled in coverage for whom no one else is claiming the personal exemption.

If you file Form 1040EZ you can claim the earned income credit. You cannot, however, itemize deductions or claim any adjustments to income or other income tax credits. Move on to Form 1040A if all of the above conditions are not met.

Form 1040A

Form 1040A is the simplified version of the long form 1040. If you cannot use the short form 1040EZ, you may use the simplified form 1040A if you meet these conditions:

  • Your taxable income is less than $100,000.
  • Your income is only from wages, salaries, tips, taxable scholarships and fellowship grants, interest, ordinary dividends, capital gain distributions, pensions, annuities, IRAs, unemployment compensation, taxable Social Security or railroad retirement benefits, and Alaska Permanent Fund dividends.
  • You do not itemize deductions.
  • You did not have an alternative minimum tax adjustment on stock you acquired from the exercise of an incentive stock option.
  • Your only adjustments to income are the IRA deduction, the student loan interest deduction, the educator expenses deduction, the tuition and fees deduction.
  • The only credits you are claiming are the credit for child and dependent care expenses, the earned income credit, the credit for the elderly or the disabled, education credits, the child tax credit, the additional child tax credit, or the retirement savings contribution credit.

Once again we see income amount and source restrictions, and the fact that you can't itemize deductions on forms 1040EZ and 1040A. If any of the above conditions are not met, move on to the Long Form 1040, which is the catch all.

Form 1040

You must use Form 1040 under certain circumstances such as the following:

  • Your taxable income is $100,000 or more.
  • You have self-employment earnings, income received as a partner, or are a shareholder in an S corporation.
  • You have certain types of income such as unreported tips, dividends on insurance policies, or are a beneficiary of an estate or trust.
  • You itemize deductions or claim certain tax credits or adjustments to income.
  • You owe household employment taxes.

The first section of each form instructions booklet PDF explains the above conditions and is the definitive source for determining which income tax form to use - 1040EZ, 1040A, 1040. The conditions outlined above are for the 2014 income tax year and the forms are due April 15, 2015.

Reference: IRS Tax Topic 352.

Filed Under: income tax