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Rev. date: 01/01/2011

Which Form – 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ?

Tax Topic 352
The three forms used for filing individual federal income tax returns are Form 1040-EZ, Form 1040-A, and Form 1040.
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, and your spouse if filing a joint return, were under age 65 on January 1, 2011, and not blind at the end of 2010
  4. You have only wages, salaries, tips, taxable scholarship and fellowship grants, unemployment compensation, qualified state tuition program earnings, or Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, and your taxable interest was not over $1,500
  5. Your taxable income is less than $100,000
  6. Your earned tips, if any, are included in boxes 5 and 7 of your Form W-2
  7. You did not receive any advance earned income credit payments
  8. You do not owe any household employment taxes on wages you paid to a household employee
  9. You are not a debtor in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case filed after October 16, 2005
  10. You are not claiming the additional standard deduction for real estate taxes, net disaster losses, or qualified motor vehicle taxes
  11. You do not claim a student loan interest deduction, an educator expense deduction, or a tuition and fees deduction, and
  12. You do not claim an education credit, retirement savings contributions credit, or a health coverage tax credit
If you file Form 1040EZ, you cannot itemize deductions or claim any adjustments to income or tax credits (other than the earned income credit).
If you cannot use Form 1040EZ, you may be able to use Form 1040A if:
  1. Your income is only from wages, salaries, tips, taxable scholarships and fellowship grants, interest, or ordinary dividends, capital gain distributions, pensions, annuities, IRAs, unemployment compensation, taxable social security or railroad retirement benefits, and Alaska Permanent Fund dividends
  2. Your taxable income is less than $100,000
  3. You do not itemize deductions
  4. You did not have an alternative minimum tax adjustment on stock you acquired from the exercise of an incentive stock option
  5. You received advance earned income credit payments, dependent care benefits, or if you owe tax from the recapture of an education credit or the alternative minimum tax, and
  6. Your only adjustments to income are the IRA deduction, the student loan interest deduction, the educator expenses deduction, and the tuition and fees deduction.
If you file Form 1040A, the only credits you can claim are the credit for child and dependent care expenses, the earned income credit, the making work pay credit, the credit for the elderly or the disabled, education credits, the child tax credit, the additional child tax credit, the government retiree credit, and the retirement savings contribution credit.
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 unreported tips, certain nontaxable distributions, self-employment earnings, 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
A complete list of conditions outlining when Form 1040 must be used is in the instructions for Form 1040A.
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 file a joint return with your spouse. Other non-resident aliens may have to file Form 1040-NR or Form 1040-NR-EZ. For more information on resident and nonresident aliens, refer to Tax Topic 851 and Publication 519, U. S. Tax Guide for Aliens, Chapter 7.