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Publication 17

Your Federal 
Income Tax


For Individuals

inside back cover
All material in this publication may be reprinted freely. A citation to Your Federal Income Tax (2012) would be appropriate.
The explanations and examples in this publication reflect the interpretation by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of:
  • Tax laws enacted by Congress,
  • Treasury regulations, and
  • Court decisions.
However, the information given does not cover every situation and is not intended to replace the law or change its meaning.
This publication covers some subjects on which a court may have made a decision more favorable to taxpayers than the interpretation by the IRS. Until these differing interpretations are resolved by higher court decisions or in some other way, this publication will continue to present the interpretations by the IRS.
All taxpayers have important rights when working with the IRS. These rights are described in Your Rights as a Taxpayer in the back of this publication.

What's New(p1)

This section summarizes important tax changes that took effect in 2012. Most of these changes are discussed in more detail throughout this publication.
Future developments.(p1)
For the latest information about the tax law topics covered in this publication, including information about any tax legislation, go to
Tax benefits extended.(p1)
Several temporary tax benefits have been extended through 2013, including the following.
  • Election to deduct state and local general sales taxes instead of state and local income taxes. See chapter 22.
  • Deduction for mortgage insurance premiums. See chapter 23.
  • Exclusion from income of qualified charitable distributions. See chapter 17.
Standard mileage rates.(p1)
The 2012 rate for business use of your car remains 551/2 cents a mile. See chapter 26.
The 2012 rate for use of your car to get medical care is decreased to 23 cents a mile. See chapter 21.
The 2012 rate for use of your car to move is decreased to 23 cents a mile. See Publication 521, Moving Expenses.
Exemption amount.(p1)
The amount you can deduct for each exemption has increased. It was $3,700 for 2011. It is $3,800 for 2012. See chapter 3.
Roth IRAs.(p1)
If you converted or rolled over an amount to a Roth IRA in 2010 and did not elect to report the taxable amount on your 2010 return, you generally must report half of it on your 2011 return and the rest on your 2012 return. See Publication 575 for details.
Designated Roth accounts.(p1)
If you rolled over an amount from a 401(k) or 403(b) plan to a designated Roth account in 2010 and did not elect to report the taxable amount on your 2010 return, you generally must report half of it on your 2011 return and the rest on your 2012 return. See Publication 575 for details.
Schedule 8812.(p1)
Use Schedule 8812 (Form 1040A or 1040) to figure your additional child tax credit for 2012. Schedule 8812 is new for 2012. Form 8812 is no longer in use. See chapter 33.
Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (Identity Protection PIN or IP PIN).(p1)
If we sent you an Identity Protection PIN, see chapter 1 to find out how to use it.
Mailing your return.(p1)
If you are filing a paper return, you may be mailing it to a different address this year because the IRS has changed the filing location for several areas. See Where To File near the end of this publication for a list of IRS addresses.


Listed below are important reminders and other items that may help you file your 2012 tax return. Many of these items are explained in more detail later in this publication.
Enter your social security number (SSN).(p1)
Enter your SSN in the space provided on your tax form. If you filed a joint return for 2011 and are filing a joint return for 2012 with the same spouse, enter your names and SSNs in the same order as on your 2011 return. See chapter 1.
Secure your tax records from identity theft.(p1)
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, SSN, or other identifying information, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. An identity thief may use your SSN to get a job or may file a tax return using your SSN to receive a refund. For more information about identity theft and how to reduce your risk from it, see chapter 1.
Taxpayer identification numbers.(p1)
You must provide the taxpayer identification number for each person for whom you claim certain tax benefits. This applies even if the person was born in 2012. Generally, this number is the person's social security number (SSN). See chapter 1.
Foreign source income.(p1)
If you are a U.S. citizen with income from sources outside the United States (foreign income), you must report all such income on your tax return unless it is exempt by U.S. law. This is true whether you live inside or outside the United States and whether or not you receive a Form W-2 or Form 1099 from the foreign payer. This applies to earned income (such as wages and tips) as well as unearned income (such as interest, dividends, capital gains, pensions, rents and royalties).
If you live outside the United States, you may be able to exclude part or all of your foreign source earned income. For details, see Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad.
Foreign financial assets.(p1)
If you had foreign financial assets in 2012, you may have to file Form 8938 with your return. Check for details.
Automatic 6-month extension to file tax return.(p1)
You can use Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to obtain an automatic 6-month extension of time to file your tax return. See chapter 1.
Include your phone number on your return.(p1)
To promptly resolve any questions we have in processing your tax return, we would like to be able to call you. Please enter your daytime telephone number on your tax form next to your signature.
Payment of taxes.(p1)
You can pay your taxes online or by phone. You can make a direct transfer from your bank account or use a credit or debit card. If you e-file, you can schedule an electronic payment. See chapter 1.
Faster ways to file your return.(p1)
The IRS offers fast, accurate ways to file your tax return information without filing a paper tax return. You can use IRS e-file (electronic filing). See chapter 1.
Free electronic filing.(p1)
You may be able to file your 2012 taxes online for free thanks to an electronic filing agreement. See chapter 1.
Change of address.(p1)
If you change your address, you should notify the IRS. See Change of Address in chapter 1.
Refund on a late filed return.(p1)
If you were due a refund but you did not file a return, you generally must file your return within 3 years from the date the return was due (including extensions) to get that refund. See chapter 1.
Frivolous tax submissions.(p1)
The IRS has published a list of positions that are identified as frivolous. The penalty for filing a frivolous tax return is $5,000. See chapter 1.
Filing erroneous claim for refund or credit.(p1)
You may have to pay a penalty if you file an erroneous claim for refund or credit. See chapter 1.
Privacy Act and paperwork reduction information.(p1)
The IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, the Privacy Act of 1974, and the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 require that when we ask you for information we must first tell you what our legal right is to ask for the information, why we are asking for it, how it will be used, what could happen if we do not receive it, and whether your response is voluntary, required to obtain a benefit, or mandatory under the law. A complete statement on this subject can be found in your tax form instructions.
Customer service for taxpayers.(p1)
You can set up a personal appointment at the most convenient Taxpayer Assistance Center, on the most convenient business day. See How To Get Tax Help in the back of this publication.
Preparer e-file mandate.(p1)
Most paid preparers must e-file returns they prepare and file. Your preparer may make you aware of this requirement and the options available to you.
Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.(p1)
If you want to confidentially report misconduct, waste, fraud, or abuse by an IRS employee, you can call 1-800-366-4484 (call 1-800-877-8339 if you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, and are using TTY/TDD equipment). You can remain anonymous.
Photographs of missing children.(p1)
The Internal Revenue Service is a proud partner with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Photographs of missing children selected by the Center may appear in this publication on pages that would otherwise be blank. You can help bring these children home by looking at the photographs and calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) if you recognize a child.
This publication covers the general rules for filing a federal income tax return. It supplements the information contained in your tax form instructions. It explains the tax law to make sure you pay only the tax you owe and no more.

How this publication is arranged.(p2)

This publication closely follows Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. It is divided into six parts which cover different sections of Form 1040. Each part is further divided into chapters which generally discuss one line of the form. Do not worry if you file Form 1040A or Form 1040EZ. Anything included on a line of either of these forms is also included on Form 1040.
The table of contents inside the front cover and the index in the back of the publication are useful tools to help you find the information you need.

What is in this publication.(p2)

The publication begins with the rules for filing a tax return. It explains:
  1. Who must file a return,
  2. Which tax form to use,
  3. When the return is due,
  4. How to e-file your return, and
  5. Other general information.
It will help you identify which filing status you qualify for, whether you can claim any dependents, and whether the income you receive is taxable. The publication goes on to explain the standard deduction, the kinds of expenses you may be able to deduct, and the various kinds of credits you may be able to take to reduce your tax.
Throughout the publication are examples showing how the tax law applies in typical situations. Also throughout the publication are flowcharts and tables that present tax information in an easy-to-understand manner.
Many of the subjects discussed in this publication are discussed in greater detail in other IRS publications. References to those other publications are provided for your information.
Small graphic symbols, or icons, are used to draw your attention to special information. See Table 1 below for an explanation of each icon used in this publication.

What is not covered in this publication.(p2)

Some material that you may find helpful is not included in this publication but can be found in your tax form instruction booklet. This includes lists of:
If you operate your own business or have other self-employment income, such as from babysitting or selling crafts, see the following publications for more information.

Help from the IRS.(p2)

There are many ways you can get help from the IRS. These are explained under How To Get Tax Help in the back of this publication.

Comments and suggestions.(p2)

We welcome your comments about this publication and your suggestions for future editions.
You can write to us at the following address:

Internal Revenue Service
Individual Forms and Publications Branch
1111 Constitution Ave. NW, IR-6526
Washington, DC 20224

We respond to many letters by telephone. Therefore, it would be helpful if you would include your daytime phone number, including the area code, in your correspondence.
You can email us at Please put "Publications Comment" on the subject line. You can also send us comments from Select "More Information" and then "Comment on Tax Forms and Publications."
Although we cannot respond individually to each comment received, we do appreciate your feedback and will consider your comments as we revise our tax forms and publications.

Ordering forms and publications.(p2)

Visit to download forms and publications, call 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676) to order forms and publications, or write to the address below and receive a response within 10 days after your request is received.

Internal Revenue Service
1201 N. Mitsubishi Motorway
Bloomington, IL 61705-6613


Tax questions.(p2)

If you have a tax question, check the information available on or call 1-800-829-1040. We cannot answer tax questions sent to either of the above addresses.

IRS mission.(p2)

Provide America's taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and by applying the tax law with integrity and fairness to all.

Table 1. Legend of Icons

caution Items that may cause you particular problems, or an alert about pending legislation that may be enacted after this publication goes to print.
compute An Internet site or an email address.
envelope An address you may need.
files Items you should keep in your personal records.
pencil Items you may need to figure or a worksheet you may need to complete.
phone An important phone number.
taxtip Helpful information you may need.