Your Guide to Tax Forms

Alden Wicker

Simplest: 1040-EZ

If none of the situations described under the 1040 or 1040A section apply to you, then you have simple finances, and need a simple form. This form has the most self-explanatory name. It’s easy! It’s generally used by younger people with a job with a steady paycheck.

Use this if: 

  • Your filing status is single or married filing jointly (find out what your filing status is).
  • You aren’t claiming any dependents.
  • Your income includes only wages, salaries, tips, taxable scholarship and fellowship grants, unemployment compensation or Alaska Permanent Fund dividends.
  • Your taxable income is less than $100,000 (Find out what your taxable income is.)
  • Your earned tips, if any, are included in boxes 5 and 7 on your W-2 form.
  • The only credit you are claiming is the earned income credit.

Finish: Pick Your Additional Forms

Once you choose your 1040, you might need to fill out additional forms. Here are the most common ones: 

If You’re Itemizing: Schedule A

This schedule is for those who will itemize their taxes. Find out if you should itemize.

If You Had Interest and Dividends: Schedule B

This form is for taxable interest (like from a savings account) and dividend income (from your investments).

Use this if: Your taxable interest and dividend income exceeds $1,500.

If You Are Self-Employed: Schedule SE and Schedule C

These two forms are for people who are in business for themselves, among other situations. The schedule SE calculates the self-employment tax you owe, while the Schedule C addresses taxes specific to your business. You’ll need to fill them both out.

Use these forms if:

  • You have income that isn’t withheld. For example, as a freelancer, you won’t have income withheld for taxes every time you receive a check from a project.
  • You own your own business.
  • You received income from dividends, interest, capital gains, rents or royalties.
  • You did not elect voluntary withholding on your salary, unemployment income or Social Security benefits.

If You Are Simply Self-Employed: Schedule C-EZ

If you’re a freelance graphic designer or writer, you have a pretty simple business and can use a simplified form instead of the Schedule C above.

Use this form if:

  • Your business expenses are $5,000 or less
  • You only have one business
  • You did not make a net loss
  • You have no employees
  • You have no inventory (sorry Etsy sellers, you need the more complicated form, Schedule C)
  • You are not using depreciation or deducting the cost of your home