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

Which Form
Should I Use?(p6)

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(p6)

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.(p6)

rule
  1. Your filing status is single or married filing jointly. If you were a nonresident alien at any time in 2012, 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 2012. If you were born on January 1, 1948, you are considered to be age 65 at the end of 2012.
  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 do not claim any adjustments to income, such as a deduction for IRA contributions or student loan interest.
  7. You do not claim any credits other than the earned income credit.
  8. You do not owe any household employment taxes on wages you paid to a household employee.
  9. If you earned tips, they are included in boxes 5 and 7 of your Form W-2.
  10. You are not a debtor in a chapter 11 bankruptcy case filed after October 16, 2005.
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.(p6)

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

Form 1040A(p6)

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.(p6)

rule
  1. Your income is only from:
    1. Wages, salaries, and tips,
    2. Interest,
    3. Ordinary dividends (including Alaska Permanent Fund dividends),
    4. Capital gain distributions,
    5. IRA distributions,
    6. Pensions and annuities,
    7. Unemployment compensation,
    8. Taxable social security and railroad retirement benefits, and
    9. Taxable scholarship and fellowship grants.
    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.
  2. Your taxable income is less than $100,000.
  3. Your adjustments to income are for only the following items.
    1. Educator expenses.
    2. IRA deduction.
    3. Student loan interest deduction.
    4. Tuition and fees.
  4. You do not itemize your deductions.
  5. You claim only the following tax credits.
    1. The credit for child and dependent care expenses. (See chapter 31.)
    2. The credit for the elderly or the disabled. (See chapter 32.)
    3. The education credits. (See chapter 34.)
    4. The retirement savings contribution credit. (See chapter 36.)
    5. The child tax credit. (See chapter 33.)
    6. The earned income credit. (See chapter 35.)
    7. The additional child tax credit. (See chapter 33.)
  6. 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 can also use Form 1040A if you received employer-provided dependent care benefits or if you owe tax from the recapture of an education credit or the alternative minimum tax.
You must meet all of the above requirements to use Form 1040A. If you do not, you must use Form 1040.
taxmap/pub17/p17-003.htm#en_us_publink1000170463

Form 1040(p7)

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.(p7)

rule
  1. Your taxable income is $100,000 or more.
  2. You itemize your deductions on Schedule A.
  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 must repay the first-time homebuyer credit.