Your Guide to Tax Forms

Alden Wicker

If You Had Capital Gains and Losses: Schedule D and Form 8949

These forms are used to report capital gains and losses. This is when you sold a stock, mutual fund or property for more or less than what you paid for it. Because the rules governing these forms are very detailed and specific, make sure to read the IRS instructions if you think any of these circumstances might apply to you. Find instructions on the IRS website.

Use these forms if:

  • You sold stock, mutual funds or other investments
  • You had a gain or loss from a partnership, S corporation, estate or trust
  • You loaned money to someone, unrelated to a business, and you cannot collect it (a bad debt)
  • You received a Form 2439, Notice to Shareholder of Undistributed Long-Term Capital Gains, from your mutual fund
  • You sold assets from your business
  • You made a gain or loss on other assets, like futures contracts, etc.

If You’re Claiming Education Credits: Form 8863

This form is used to claim education credits.You can find out more about them here.

Use this form if:

  • You qualify for the American Opportunity Credit
  • You qualify for the Lifetime Learning Credit

If You Are Taking a Tuition and Fees Deduction: Form 8917

Another form for college students, their parents or spouses, this is what you fill out to take a tuition and fees deduction.

Use this form if:

  • You were enrolled in and paid expenses for an eligible education institution, or
  • You paid tuition and fees for a spouse or dependent enrolled in an eligible education institution.

Don’t use this form if:

  • Your filing status is married filing separately. (Find out what your filing status is.)
  • Another person can claim an exemption for you as a dependent on his or her tax return. You cannot take the deduction even if the other person does not actually claim that exemption. Learn more.
  • Your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is more than $80,000 ($160,000 if filing a joint return).
  • You were a nonresident alien for any part of the year and did not elect to be treated as a resident alien for tax purposes. More information on nonresident aliens can be found in Pub. 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.
  • You or someone else claims the American opportunity or lifetime learning credit for the same student. (A state tax credit will not disqualify you from claiming a tuition and fees deduction.)

Wait, Wait, Wait!

Something not quite right? There are forms for that:

If You Need to Make a Change: 1040x

This is the form you use to make changes on a 1040 form you already filed with the IRS.

Use this form if:

  • You need to make a correction on form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ.
  • You want to make certain elections (like what your filing status will be) after the deadline.
  • You want to change amounts previously adjusted by the IRS.
  • You want to make a claim for a carryback due to a business loss or unused credit.

If You Need to File an Extension: Form 4868

This is the form you’ll use to file for an extension. This will give you six more months to file your forms, but NOT six more months to pay your taxes.

Use this form if: You need more time to prepare your tax return.

Don’t use this form if: You need more time to find money to pay your taxes. If that’s the case, this post tells you what you can do.