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Topic 352 - Which Form – 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ?

The three forms U.S. citizens and resident aliens use for filing individual federal income tax returns are Form 1040EZ (PDF), Income Tax Return for Single and Joint Filers With No Dependents, Form 1040A (PDF), U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and Form 1040 (PDF), U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. To see which form you should use, review What Is the Simplest Form to Use to File My Taxes?

Form 1040EZ is the simplest form to fill out. You may use Form 1040EZ if you meet all the following conditions:

  1. Your filing status is single or married filing jointly
  2. You claim no dependents
  3. You don't claim any adjustments to income
  4. You don't claim any credits other than the earned income credit
  5. You, and your spouse if filing a joint return, were under age 65 on January 1, 2017, and not blind at the end of 2016
  6. Your taxable income is less than $100,000
  7. You had only wages, salaries, tips, taxable scholarship and fellowship grants, unemployment compensation, or Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, and your taxable interest wasn't over $1,500
  8. Your earned tips, if any, are included in boxes 5 and 7 of your Form W-2
  9. You don't owe any household employment taxes on wages you paid to a household employee
  10. You're not a debtor in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case filed after October 16, 2005
  11. Advance payments of the premium tax credit weren't 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't itemize deductions or claim any adjustments to income or tax credits (other than the earned income credit).

Form 1040EZ Links

Form 1040EZ Instructions

Filing Your Taxes

E-File Options for Individuals

If you can't use Form 1040EZ, you may be able to use Form 1040A if:

  1. Your income is only from wages, salaries, tips, interest, ordinary dividends, capital gain distributions, taxable scholarships and fellowship grants, pensions, annuities, IRAs, unemployment compensation, Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, and taxable social security or railroad retirement benefits
  2. The only adjustments to income you can claim are the IRA deduction, the student loan interest deduction, the educator expenses deduction, and the tuition and fees deduction
  3. You don't itemize deductions
  4. Your taxable income is less than $100,000
  5. The only tax credits you can claim are the credit for child and dependent care expenses, the credit for the elderly or the disabled, education credits, the retirement savings contributions credit, the child tax credit, the additional child tax credit, the earned income credit, and/or the premium tax credit, and
  6. You didn't have an alternative minimum tax adjustment on stock you acquired from the exercise of an incentive stock option

You can also use Form 1040A if you received dependent care benefits or if you owe tax from the recapture of an education credit or the alternative minimum tax.

Form 1040A Links

References:

Form 1040A Instructions

Filing Your Taxes

E-File Options for Individuals

Often used Schedules:

Form 1040A or 1040, Schedule B (PDF) - Interest and Ordinary Dividends

Form 1040A or 1040, Schedule R (PDF) - Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled

Form 1040A or 1040, Schedule EIC (PDF) - Earned Income Credit

Form 1040A or 1040, Schedule 8812 (PDF) - Child Tax Credit

Often used Forms:

Form 2441 (PDF) - Child and Dependent Care Expenses

Form 8863 (PDF) - Education Credits (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits)

Form 8888 (PDF) - Allocation of Refund (Including Savings Bond Purchases)

Form 8962 (PDF) - Premium Tax Credit (PTC)

Finally, you must use Form 1040 under certain circumstances, such as:

  1. Your taxable income is $100,000 or more
  2. You have certain types of income, such as business or farm self-employment income; unreported tips; dividends on insurance policies that exceed the total of all net premiums you paid for the contract; or income received as a partner, a shareholder in an S corporation, or a beneficiary of an estate or trust
  3. You itemize deductions or claim certain tax credits or adjustments to income, or
  4. You owe household employment taxes

See "When Must You Use Form 1040?" in the Form 1040A Instructions for a complete list of conditions outlining when you must use Form 1040.

Form 1040 Links

References:

Form 1040 Instructions

Filing Your Taxes

E-File Options for Individuals

Often used Schedules:

Form 1040, Schedule A (PDF) - Itemized Deductions

Form 1040A or 1040, Schedule B (PDF) - Interest and Ordinary Dividends

Form 1040, Schedule C (PDF) - Profit or Loss From Business (Sole Proprietorship)

Form 1040, Schedule C-EZ (PDF) - Net Profit From Business (Sole Proprietorship)

Form 1040, Schedule D (PDF) - Capital Gains and Losses

Form 1040, Schedule E (PDF) - Supplemental Income and Loss

Form 1040A or 1040, Schedule EIC (PDF) - Earned Income Credit

Form 1040A or 1040, Schedule 8812 (PDF) - Child Tax Credit

Form 1040A or 1040, Schedule R (PDF) - Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled

Often used Forms:

Form 2441 (PDF) - Child and Dependent Care Expenses

Form 8863 (PDF) - Education Credits (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits)

Form 8888 (PDF) - Allocation of Refund (Including Savings Bond Purchases)

Form 8949 (PDF) - Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets

Form 8962 (PDF) - Premium Tax Credit (PTC)

If you were a nonresident alien during the tax year and you were married to a U.S. citizen or resident alien, you may use any one of these three forms, based on your circumstances, only if you elect to be treated as a resident alien when you file a joint return with your spouse. Other nonresident aliens may have to file Form 1040NR (PDF) or Form 1040NR-EZ (PDF). For more information on resident and nonresident aliens, refer to Topic 851 and Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: December 30, 2016