How to File a Federal Income Tax Return (Form 1040)

Individual taxpayers use a Form 1040 to file federal tax returns. For some, completing the form can be rather painless. For many others, filing a federal return can be both confusing and time-consuming. In an effort to simplify the filing process, this page provides clear and concise explanations for nearly every Form 1040 line item; simply follow the links to find clear, educational filing guidance!

Section A: Filing Status
Lines 1-5: Filing Status Options
Informational: The Marriage “Penalty” and The Marriage “Bonus”

Section B: Exemptions
Line 6a-b: Personal Exemptions
Line 6c: Dependency Exemptions

Section C: Income Items
Line 7: Wages, Salaries, Tips, etc (use Form W-2)
Line 8a: Taxable Interest
Line 8b: Tax-Exempt Interest
Line 9a: Ordinary dividends
Line 9b: Qualified dividends
Line 10: Taxable Refunds, Credits, or Offsets of State and Local Taxes
Line 11: Alimony Received
Line 12: Business Income (or Loss)
Line 13: Capital Gain (or Loss)
Line 14: Other Gains (or Losses)
Line 15: IRA distributions
Line 16: Pensions and Annuities
Line 17: Rental Real estate, Royalties, Partnerships, S Corporations, Trusts, etc
Line 18: Farm Income (or Loss)
Line 19: Unemployment Compensation
Line 20: Social Security Benefits
Line 21: Other Income

Section D: Adjusted Gross Income
Line 23: Educator Expenses
Line 24: Certain Business expenses of reservists, performing artists, and fee-basis gov’t officials
Line 25: Health savings account deduction
Line 26: Moving Expenses
Line 27: Deductible part of self-employment tax
Line 28: Self-employed SEP, SIMPLE, and Qualified Plans
Line 29: Self-employed health insurance deduction
Line 30: Penalty on early withdrawal of savings
Line 31: Alimony Paid
Line 32: IRA deduction
Line 33: Student Loan Interest deduction
Line 34: Tuition and Fees
Line 35: Domestic production activities deduction

Section E: Tax and Credits
Line 39: Elderly and Blind Status
Line 40: Itemized Deductions or Standard Deduction
Line 47: Foreign Tax Credit
Line 48: Child/Dependent Care Expenses Credit
Line 49: Education Credits
Line 50: Retirement Savings Contributions Credit
Line 51: Child Tax Credit
Line 52: Residential Energy Credits
Line 53: Other Credits

Section F: Others Taxes
Line 56: Self-Employment tax
Line 57: Unreported Social Security and Medicare tax
Line 58: Additional tax on IRAs, other qualified retirement tax
Line 59a: Household Employment tax
Line 59b: First-time Homebuyer Credit Repayment

Section G: Payments
Line 62: Federal Income Tax Withheld from Form W-2 and 1099
Line 63: 2012 Estimated Tax Payments and Amount Applied from 2011 Return
Line 64a: Earned Income Credit
Line 64b: Nontaxable Combat Pay Election
Line 65: Additional Child Tax Credit
Line 66: American Opportunity Credit
Line 68: Amount Paid with Extension to File Request
Line 69: Excess Social Security and Tier 1 RRTA tax Withheld
Line 70: Credit for Federal Tax of Fuels
Line 71: Other Credits from Forms 2439, 8801, 8885

Section H: Refund

Section I: Amount You Owe

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