Can I Use IRS Form 1040A? Do You Really Need to Know?

What’s the difference between IRS 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ?  Which 1040 form do you use?  What is tax form 1040EZ?  Do you really need to know?  The answer is no, not really.  Back before online tax preparation and tax prep software, when income tax returns were filed on paper forms, taxpayers did need to know.  The 1040 is the basic individual tax return used to file federal incomes taxes with the IRS.  The 1040 A is a much shorter form used by taxpayers who don’t need to claim quite as many deductions and tax credits.  The 1040EZ is a one-page income tax form for taxpayers whose financial life is so simple it can be summarized on the one-page simple easy IRS 1040 EZ.

But now we have entered the 21st century where paper tax forms are becoming less prevalent.  Now, millions of taxpayers file their federal income tax returns online or with software they downloaded from a tax preparation company.  You create a login and it begins somewhat like any website that asks for personal information in order to create an account.  Once you’ve created an account, the software guides you through a series of questions about your income and your life.  You’ll be asked to enter figures from your wage statement (W2) or other sources of income.

The final product is an electronic file that you e-file with the IRS.  For your records, you can print out the IRS tax forms that pertain to your tax return.  Sometimes only then do you realize which tax form was used…the 1040EZ, the 1040A, or the 1040 long form.

So that begs the question: do you really need to know which tax form you should use?  The tax prep software will figure that out for you!  For those with curious brains, IRS Form 1040A is not the simplest tax form and it’s not the most complex, either.  It’s right in the middle…sort of like Goldilocks’s bowl of porridge.  You can use IRS Form 1040A if you dont’ have a very complicated financial life but you need to claim a few deductions like dependents and an IRA contribution deduction.  You still must make under $100,000 in order to use IRS Form 1040A.