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IRS.gov Website
Publication 17
taxmap/pub17/p17-003.htm#en_us_publink1000170444

Which Form  
Should I Use?(p7)

rule
You must use one of three forms to file your return: Form 1040EZ, Form 1040A, or Form 1040. (But also see Does My Return Have To Be on Paper, later.)
Deposit
See the discussion under Form 1040 for when you must use that form.
taxmap/pub17/p17-003.htm#en_us_publink1000170447

Form 1040EZ(p7)

rule
Form 1040EZ is the simplest form to use.
taxmap/pub17/p17-003.htm#en_us_publink1000170448

You can use Form 1040EZ if all of the following apply.(p7)

rule
  1. Your filing status is single or married filing jointly. If you were a nonresident alien at any time in 2010, your filing status must be married filing jointly.
  2. You (and your spouse if married filing a joint return) were under age 65 and not blind at the end of 2010. If you were born on January 1, 1946, you are considered to be age 65 at the end of 2010.
  3. You do not claim any dependents.
  4. Your taxable income is less than $100,000.
  5. Your income is only from wages, salaries, tips, unemployment compensation, Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, taxable scholarship and fellowship grants, and taxable interest of $1,500 or less.
  6. You did not receive any advance earned income credit (EIC) payments.
  7. You do not claim any adjustments to income, such as a deduction for IRA contributions or student loan interest.
  8. You do not claim any credits other than the earned income credit or the making work pay credit.
  9. You do not owe any household employment taxes on wages you paid to a household employee.
  10. You are not claiming the additional standard deduction.
You must meet all of these requirements to use Form 1040EZ. If you do not, you must use Form 1040A or Form 1040.
taxmap/pub17/p17-003.htm#en_us_publink1000170449

Figuring tax.(p7)

rule
On Form 1040EZ, you can use only the tax table to figure your tax. You cannot use Form 1040EZ to report any other tax.
taxmap/pub17/p17-003.htm#en_us_publink1000170450

Form 1040A(p7)

rule
If you do not qualify to use Form 1040EZ, you may be able to use Form 1040A.
taxmap/pub17/p17-003.htm#en_us_publink1000170451

You can use Form 1040A if all of the following apply.(p7)

rule
  1. Your income is only from wages, salaries, tips, IRA distributions, pensions and annuities, taxable social security and railroad retirement benefits, taxable scholarship and fellowship grants, interest, ordinary dividends (including Alaska Permanent Fund dividends), capital gain distributions, and unemployment compensation.
  2. Your taxable income is less than $100,000.
  3. Your adjustments to income are for only the following items.
    1. IRA deduction.
    2. Student loan interest deduction.
  4. You do not itemize your deductions.
  5. Your taxes are from only the following items.
    1. Tax Table.
    2. Alternative minimum tax. (See chapter 30.)
    3. Advance earned income credit (EIC) payments, if you received any. (See chapter 36.)
    4. Recapture of an education credit. (See chapter 35.)
    5. Form 8615, Tax for Certain Children Who Have Investment Income of More Than $1,900.
    6. Qualified Dividends and Capital Gain Tax Worksheet.
  6. You claim only the following tax credits.
    1. The credit for child and dependent care expenses. (See chapter 32.)
    2. The credit for the elderly or the disabled. (See chapter 33.)
    3. The child tax credit. (See chapter 34.)
    4. The additional child tax credit. (See chapter 34.)
    5. The education credits. (See chapter 35.)
    6. The retirement savings contributions credit. (See chapter 37.)
    7. The earned income credit. (See chapter 36.)
    8. The making work pay credit. (See chapter 37.)
  7. You did not have an alternative minimum tax adjustment on stock you acquired from the exercise of an incentive stock option. (See Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income.)
You must meet all of the above requirements to use Form 1040A. If you do not, you must use Form 1040.
EIC
See Form 1040A for other adjustments to income that may be allowed.
If you meet the above requirements, you can use Form 1040A even if you received employer-provided dependent care benefits or claim the additional standard deduction for taxes paid in 2010 on the purchase in 2009 after February 16 of a new motor vehicle.
EIC
If you receive a capital gain distribution that includes unrecaptured section 1250 gain, section 1202 gain, or collectibles (28%) gain, you cannot use Form 1040A. You must use Form 1040.
taxmap/pub17/p17-003.htm#en_us_publink1000170463

Form 1040(p8)

rule
If you cannot use Form 1040EZ or Form 1040A, you must use Form 1040. You can use Form 1040 to report all types of income, deductions, and credits.
You may pay less tax by filing Form 1040 because you can take itemized deductions, some adjustments to income, and credits you cannot take on Form 1040A or Form 1040EZ.
taxmap/pub17/p17-003.htm#en_us_publink1000170464

You must use Form 1040 if any of the following apply.(p8)

rule
  1. Your taxable income is $100,000 or more.
  2. You itemize your deductions.
  3. You had income that cannot be reported on Form 1040EZ or Form 1040A, including tax-exempt interest from private activity bonds issued after August 7, 1986.
  4. You claim any adjustments to gross income other than the adjustments listed earlier under Form 1040A.
  5. Your Form W-2, box 12, shows uncollected employee tax (social security and Medicare tax) on tips (see chapter 6) or group-term life insurance (see chapter 5).
  6. You received $20 or more in tips in any 1 month and did not report all of them to your employer. (See chapter 6.)
  7. You were a bona fide resident of Puerto Rico and exclude income from sources in Puerto Rico.
  8. You claim any credits other than the credits listed earlier under Form 1040A.
  9. You owe the excise tax on insider stock compensation from an expatriated corporation.
  10. Your Form W-2 shows an amount in box 12 with a code Z.
  11. You had a qualified health savings account funding distribution from your IRA.
  12. You are an employee and your employer did not withhold social security and Medicare tax.
  13. You have to file other forms with your return to report certain exclusions, taxes, or transactions.
  14. You are a debtor in a bankruptcy case filed after October 16, 2005.
  15. You have a net disaster loss attributable to a federally declared disaster, even if you are claiming the standard deduction.
  16. You must recapture the first-time homebuyer credit.
  17. You received a refund or credit of certain taxes or net disaster loss you claimed as part of your standard deduction.
taxmap/pub17/p17-003.htm#en_us_publink1000170468

Table 1-3. Other Situations When You Must File a 2010 Return

If any of the four conditions listed below applies, you must file a return, even if your income is less than the amount shown in Table 1-1 or Table 1-2.
1.You owe any special taxes, including any of the following.
 


















Social security or Medicare tax on tips you did not report to your employer. (See chapter 6.)
Social security or Medicare tax on wages you received from an employer who did not withhold these taxes.
Uncollected social security, Medicare, or railroad retirement tax on tips you reported to your employer. (See chapter 6.)
Uncollected social security, Medicare, or railroad retirement tax on your group-term life insurance. This amount should be shown in box 12 of your Form W-2.
Alternative minimum tax. (See chapter 30.)
Additional tax on a qualified retirement plan, including an individual retirement arrangement (IRA). (See chapter 17.)
Additional tax on an Archer MSA or health savings account. (See Publication 969, Health Savings Accounts and Other Tax-Favored Health Plans.)
Additional tax on a Coverdell ESA or qualified tuition program. (See Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.)
Recapture of an investment credit or a low-income housing credit. (See the Instructions for Form 4255, Recapture of Investment Credit, or Form 8611, Recapture of Low-Income Housing Credit.)
Recapture tax on the disposition of a home purchased with a federally subsidized mortgage. (See chapter 15.)
Recapture of the qualified electric vehicle credit. (See chapter 37.)
Recapture of an education credit. (See chapter 35.)
Recapture of the Indian employment credit. (See the Instructions for Form 8845, Indian Employment Credit.)
Recapture of the new markets credit. (See Form 8874, New Markets Credit.)
Recapture of alternative motor vehicle credit. (See Form 8910, Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit.)
Recapture of first-time homebuyer credit.
Household employment taxes. (See Schedule H (Form 1040), Household Employment Taxes.)
2.You received any advance earned income credit (EIC) payments from your employer. This amount should be shown in box 9 of your Form W-2. (See chapter 36.)
3.You had net earnings from self-employment of at least $400. (See Self-Employed Persons earlier in this chapter.)
4.You had wages of $108.28 or more from a church or qualified church-controlled organization that is exempt from employer social security and Medicare taxes. (See Publication 334.)