For most taxpayers, federal income tax is filed through the standard 1040 forms. There are four standard 1040 forms that apply to most taxpayers: 1040EZ, 1040A, 1040 and the 1040NR. Depending on your particular financial circumstances one form may be more advantageous than the rest. Speaking with competent tax advisors or doing your own research is important to ensure you receive all the tax credit and deductions to which you are entitled.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
While IRS Form 1040EZ is, by the far, the easiest form to use when completing your tax return, the standard 1040 form offers more opportunities for itemizing deductions. Nonresident aliens can use Form 1040NR to complete their tax returns.
1040EZ: For Single and Joint Filers Without Dependents
The federal income tax form 1040EZ is the simplest form to use to file your federal tax return. According to the Internal Revenue Service, not everyone qualifies to file with the 1040EZ. The 1040 EZ is only available for taxpayers who are either married and filing a joint return or single and under 65 years of age. In addition, filers using this form should not have any dependents and income must be under $100,000. As of 2018, you may be able to claim the Earned Income Credit, though in many cases a 1040 form is required instead.
1040A: For Individuals with Income Adjustments
If you qualify to claim certain credits but don't want to itemize deductions, you may be able to use form 1040A. The IRS criteria for form 1040A includes taxable income under $100,000 that originates from traditional wages, interest, capital gains scholarships, any form of pension distributions, unemployment or distributions from the Alaska Permanent Fund. In addition, form 1040A is ideal if your claim any one of the following income adjustments: IRA contribution deduction, student loan interest, tuition or educator expenses. You may also use form 1040A if you claim certain credits like child tax, education and earned income credit.
1040: For Individuals with Itemized Deductions
The traditional 1040 is the standard federal income tax form that fits most tax situations. A standard 1040 form is the appropriate form to file for a refund of federal tax withholding on your income from a sale of property or other income subject to income tax. The IRS has minimal standards to help taxpayers determine if filing a 1040 is appropriate. If you have certain types of income, such as self-employment income from a farm or business, unreported tips, investment dividends or income from a trust or estate, you must use form 1040. An income greater than $100,000 also requires you to use 1040. Additional reasons for using 1040 include itemizing deductions, claiming certain tax credits or owing household employment taxes.
1040NR: For Nonresident Aliens
The IRS requires nonresidents of the U.S. to file a federal income tax return with form 1040NR. This form is required for certain taxpayers under certain conditions. According to the IRS, form 1040NR is required if you are involved in business in the U.S. If sufficient tax is not withheld during the year from employment or business, you must file a 1040NR to settle the outstanding tax. Representatives of deceased persons or estates required to file a 1040NR must do so for the tax year in which the income is generated.
- IRS: About Form 1040-EZ, Income Tax Return for Single and Joint Filers With No Dependents
- IRS: About Form 1040-A, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return
- IRS: Which Form – 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ?
- IRS: About Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return
- IRS: About Form 1040-NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return