IRS Form 1040: Overview and Instructions

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Form 1040, U.S. Individual Tax Return, is one of the tax forms U.S. taxpayers need to file with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You can use it to calculate and report your gross income and tax liability after tax credits and deductions. It helps you determine whether you owe the government taxes or have a refund.

The deadline to file Form 1040 is April 15th of each year, unless it falls on a weekday or holiday — the next business day becomes the new due date.


Do you need to file Form 1040?

According to the latest instructions from the IRS, individual taxpayers must file Form 1040 if:

Your filing status is… At the end of 2020, you were… And your gross income was at least…
Single Age 65

65 or older



Married filing jointly Under 65 (both spouses)

65 or older (one spouse)

65 or older (both spouses)




Married filing separately Any age $5
Head of household Under 65

65 or older



Qualifying widower(er) Under 65

65 or older




Self-employed professionals, including independent contractors and freelancers who have net earnings of at least $400 need to file Form 1040 despite not meeting the gross income thresholds shown in the above table.


Where to get Form 1040?

You can download a copy of Form 1040 that you can fill out manually from the official website of the IRS. If you prefer to fill it out electronically for convenience, you can utilize a document filler application. You may also hire a tax professional or company to assist you with your tax-related concerns.


How to fill out Form 1040?

Form 1040 is a two-page tax form you need to complete accurately. Before filling it out, you need to gather all your tax documents, including your Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, and 1099 forms.

Answer the following fields:

Filing Status

Check the box to determine your filing status. The options are:

  • Single
  • Married filing jointly
  • Married filing separately (MFS) — Also enter the name of your spouse in the entry space provided.
  • Head of household (HOH) — Also enter the name of the child in the entry space provided if the qualifying person is a child but not your dependent.
  • Qualifying widow(er) (QW) — Also enter the name of the child in the entry space provided if the qualifying person is a child but not your dependent.

Then, provide the applicable information:

  • Your full legal name — If filing jointly, also enter the full legal name of your spouse.
  • Your social security number — If filing jointly, also enter the social security number of your spouse.
  • Home address — If your post office does not deliver mail to your home, use your P.O. box address instead. If you have a foreign address, enter the required information.

If you or your spouse — if filing jointly — wants $3 to go to the Presidential Election Campaign, mark the applicable checkbox.

If at any time during 2020, you received, sold, sent, exchanged, or acquired any financial interest in any virtual currency, mark the appropriate Yes box; otherwise, mark No.

Standard Deduction

Mark the appropriate box if someone can claim:

  • You as a dependent
  • Your spouse as a dependent

If you were a dual-status citizen, check the box that says “Spouse itemizes on a separate return or you were a dual-status alien.”

For the Age/Blindness field, mark the applicable boxes to determine your or your spouse’s age or if you or your spouse is blind.


If you have dependents, enter their:

  • Full legal names
  • Social security numbers
  • Relationships to you

Then, mark the applicable box if the dependents qualify for child tax credit or credit for other dependents.

Provide the following information about your income:

Line 1 — Wages, salaries, tips, etc. Then, attach Form W-2.

Line 2a — Tax-exempt interest

Line 2b — taxable interest

Line 3a — Qualified dividends

Line 3b — Ordinary dividends

Line 4a — IRA distributions

Line 4b — IRA distributions taxable amount

Line 5a — Pension and annuities

Line 5b — Pension and annuities taxable amount

Line 6a — Social security benefits

Libe 6b — Social security benefits taxable amount

Line 7 — Capital gain or loss. Then attach Schedule D, if required. Otherwise, mark the box.

Line 8 — Other income from Schedule 1, Line 9

Line 9 — Total income when you add Lines 1, 2b, 3b, 4b, 5b, 6b, 7, and 8.

Line 10 — Adjustments to income:

a. From Schedule 1, Line 22

b. Charitable contributions if you take the standard deduction

c. Total adjustments to income. To get this, add Lines 10a and 10b.

Line 11 — Adjusted gross income. To get this, subtract Line 10c from Line 9.

Line 12 — Standard deduction or itemized deductions (from Schedule A)

Line 13 — Qualified business income deduction. Then, attach Form 8995 or Form 8995-A.

Line 14 — Sum of Lines 12 and 13

Line 15 — Taxable income

Line 16 — Tax. Then, check if any from Forms 8814, 4972, or another form that you need to specify.

Line 17 — Amount from Schedule 2, Line 3

Line 18 — Sum of lines 16 and 17

Line 19 — Child tax credit or credit from other dependents

Line 20 — Amount from Schedule 3, Line 7

Line 21 — Sum of Lines 19 and 20

Line 22 — The difference when you subtract Line 21 from Line 18. If zero or less, enter 0.

Line 23 — Other taxes

Line 24 — Sum of Lines 22 and 23

Line 25 — Federal income tax withheld from:

a. Form(s) W-2

b. Form(s) 1099

c. Other forms

Sum of Lines 25a through 25c

Line 26 — 2020 estimated tax payments and amount applied from 2019 return

Line 27 — Earned income credit (EIC)

Line 28 — Additional child tax credit. Then, attach Schedule 8812.

Line 29 — American opportunity credit from Form 8863, Line 8

Line 30 — Recovery rebate credit

Line 31 — Amount from Schedule 3, Line 13

Line 32 — Total other payments and refundable credits. To get this, add Lines 27 through 31.

Line 33 — Total payments. To get this, add Lines 25d, 26, and 32.


Line 34 — Overpaid amount. This is when Line 33 is more than Line 24. To get the amount, subtract Line 24 from Line 33.

Line 35a — Amount of Line 34 you want to be refunded to you. Mark the box if Form 8888 is attached. Then provide the following:

a. Routing number

b. Type. Mark if Checking or Savings

c. Account number

Line 36 — Amount of Line 34 you want to be applied to your 2021 estimated tax

Amount You Owe

Line 37 — Total amount you owe. To get this, subtract Line 33 from Line 24.

Line 38 — Estimated tax penalty

Third Party Designee

Mark the box if you want to allow another person to discuss your Form 1040 with the IRS. Then, provide the following designee’s information:

  • Name
  • Phone Number
  • Personal identification number (PIN)

Sign Here

Provide the following:

  • Your signature
  • The date you signed the form
  • Your occupation
  • Your Identity Protection PIN if the IRS sent one
  • Your phone number
  • Your email address

If filing a joint return, provide the following:

  • Your spouse’s signature
  • The date your spouse signed the form
  • Your spouse’s occupation
  • Your spouse’s Protection PIN if the IRS sent one

Paid Preparer Use Only

Provide the following information if you used a preparer:

  • Preparer’s name
  • Preparer’s signature
  • The date the preparer signed the form
  • Preparer’s PTIN
  • If the preparer is self-employed, mark the box
  • Firm’s name
  • Firm’s address
  • Phone number
  • Firm’s EIN

Where to file Form 1040?

The address to send your Form 1040 depends on where you live. You can refer to the instructions pages of the form to view the addresses.