The 1040EZ: box-by-box
You've gathered all of your tax materials
and find you can file a Form
1040EZ. You're one of the lucky ones. The EZ is the simplest of
the three individual tax return forms.
take you through the 1040EZ, box-by-box, line-by-line. It shouldn't
take too long, so let's get right to it!
you received a tax package from the Internal Revenue Service with
a peel-off label, make sure the information is correct. If it is,
stick it here. If there are mistakes, you can correct them directly
on the label. Just make sure any changes that you write in are easy
you didn't receive a tax package, fill in the lines above, again
legibly. Joint return filers remember to include spouse info, too.
Then fill in your home address, including your ZIP code.
must enter your Social
Security number in the boxes provided in
the upper right hand corner of the form next to the label information.
If you're married, whether you're filing jointly or separately,
you must enter your spouse's Social Security number underneath yours.
Make sure that the names and numbers you put in here are identical
to the data on your corresponding Social Security cards. These numbers
are a must. The IRS will not process a return without them, meaning
you could miss out on a refund or even end up paying a penalty.
comes a question about giving $3 to the Presidential Election Campaign
Fund. You (and your spouse) should check off either "Yes"
or "No." Don't be worried about your reply. It won't affect
your tax bill in any way.
you've used other versions of the 1040 tax return in the past, you're
probably thinking something is missing. But don't be concerned that
there is no filing status section on the EZ. Since this form is
restricted to single filers or married couples who have no dependents
and want to file jointly, there's no need to waste form space (or
your time) making you specify your status. The IRS will be able
to determine that by entries you'll make a little bit later.
we get to the real reason for this whole exercise: reporting your
wages, salaries and tips
For most people, what you enter on line 1 will
come from box 1 on the Form W-2 you got from your employer. If you
(and your spouse) had more than one job, add up the box 1 amounts
on all of your W-2s and put the total here.
must also include any wages you received as a household employee
-- even if you didn't get a W-2 -- in the total on line 1 of Form
1040EZ. If such income is added but not on a W-2, write "HSH"
on the line next to where you put in your total earnings. This will
let the IRS know why there is a difference in the numbers on your
return and your W-2.
same applies to any taxable fellowship or grant amounts. If this
money is not reported on a W-2, add it and write "SCH"
and the amount on line 1.
all monetary entries on your return, the IRS allows you to round
off cents to whole dollars. To round off, drop amounts under 50
cents and increase half-dollar and above amounts to the next dollar.
If you're rounding off one entry, you must round off all entries.
don't forget to attach copy B of all your W-2 forms in the space
indicated on the return.
On line 2, you'll enter all the interest you
got as long as it comes to $1,500 or less. Your
interest earnings generally are listed in box 1 on 1099-INT forms
sent by banks, savings and loans and other similar institutions.
Add up the total amount of all your interest income from all your
1099s and report it here.
you find you got more than $1,500 last year, stop reading now. You
can't file the 1040EZ. Neither can you use this form if you received
dividend or capital gains distributions, regardless of how small
such amounts. In these cases you'll have to use a 1040A or 1040.
we come to line 3, where you take into account two very different,
but common, sources of income:
compensation: You must pay federal
tax on unemployment benefits. The paying agency should have
sent you a Form 1099-G showing the amount you received for the
Permanent Fund dividends:
Since 1982, Alaska residents have received
an annual payment from their state as their share of oil sales.
This amount is reported here.
you got either of these payments, put the total on line 3.
Now add lines 1, 2 and 3 and enter the total
on line 4. This is your adjusted gross income.
you someone else's dependent?
As is usually the case with taxes, even
an EZ form isn't completely easy. Line 5 is proof of that. Here
you're asked if your parents (or someone else) can claim you as
a dependent on their return.
don't have to actually be claimed on another return. Just the fact
that someone could claim you means your answer must be "yes."
And once you check that "yes" box, you must fill out the
following worksheet, found on the back of the 1040EZ. Your computations
here will help you determine the amount to enter on line 5.
no one can claim you as a dependent, your tax form life got EZ again.
In this case, simply enter $7,800 if you are single or $15,600 if
you are married. These amounts represent the total of the standard
deduction for your filing status ($4,750 for single filers; $9,500
for married couples) and the personal exemption amount of $3,050
per each filer.
Now we find out just how much of your money Uncle
Sam can tax. Subtract line 5 from line 4 and enter the amount on
line 6. This is your taxable income amount. Negative numbers aren't
allowed, so if line 5 is larger than line 4, enter zero on line
Then find your W-2 again and enter the amount
from box 2 on line 7 of the 1040EZ. This is the tax that was withheld
from your paycheck throughout the year. If you received a Form 1099-INT,
1099-G or 1099-OID for other earnings, any federal income tax withheld
from this money should be in box 4 of the 1099. Add this to your
paycheck withholding amount and put the total here.
Earned income credit
you didn't earn that much, you might be eligible for a special tax
break: the earned
income credit. This credit could give you a refund even if you
don't owe any tax. Check page 15 of the 1040EZ instructions
to see if you qualify and, if so, use the worksheet to determine
the amount to enter on line 8.
your earned income credit amount is the most difficult part of Form
1040EZ. Four full pages of the instructions are devoted to it. If
you prefer, you can let the IRS do the math and figure your credit.
Simply print "EIC" to the left of line 8 and leave the amount section
tax credits and payments
Next, add lines 7 and 8. This is how much you've
already paid the IRS, either through withholding or the earned income
credit, and you enter it on line 10. (If you're letting the IRS
figure your EIC, just count what you have on line 7; the agency
will amend your return with the credit amount and make the change
Now we find out if you owe tax or get money back.
instruction book to page 24, the beginning of the tax
tables. Here you'll find income ranges listed horizontally and two
columns showing tax due for either single or married filers in each
to your taxable income amount on line 6 and find the income range
into which it falls. Then track your finger to your appropriate
filing status column and that's the tax you owe. This amount goes
on line 10.
calculations and deposit data
If line 9 is larger than line 10, congratulations!
You're getting money back from Uncle Sam. Subtract line 10 from
line 9 to find out just how much and enter the amount on line 11a.
If you want your refund directly deposited to a bank account, fill
in the nine-digit routing number on line 11b. Check the tax form
instruction book (page 19) for details. If that doesn't help, call
your financial institution for what to enter here.
also have to let the IRS know whether it's your checking or savings
account. Check the appropriate box on line 11c.
don't forget line 11d. Here's where you put your account number.
IRS says by entering all these subdivisions of line 11, you should
get your direct-deposited refund in about half the time it takes
to get a check in the mail. For early filers, that's usually in
10 days to two weeks.
But if you had to skip line 11a and its companions,
sorry. That means the amount you owe (line 10) is greater than what
you paid (line 9) and you'll have to hand over even more money to
the IRS. Subtract line 9 from line 10 to find out the exact amount
you owe and enter it on line 12. If you pay by check or money order,
make it out to the "United States Treasury." Enclose your
payment with your return, but don't attach it to the form.
Hang on. We're heading down the home stretch.
now get to the 1040EZ section that allows you to name someone
else to handle any questions about your return.
by checking the "yes" box, you allow the IRS to contact
your tax pro, your mom, your cousin the CPA or anyone else you want
to solve problems related to your return. You are not authorizing
your appointed representative to receive your refund check. Neither
can he or she bind you to anything regarding your tax return.
the person you pick is allowed to assist the IRS in answering any
questions about your return that might slow its processing. Details
on naming a designated tax representative can be found on pages
20-21 of the form's instructions.
sign your name, write in the date and enter your occupation. Get
your spouse to do the same if you're filing a joint return. Since
you've read this far, we figure you probably didn't pay a pro to
fill out this form. But if you did, that person needs to complete
the box just below your signature.
the form in the mail. Mission complete!
Michele Erbrick assisted with this
-- Updated: Feb. 16, 2004