Most people think that preparing tax returns is extremely complicated and difficult. It can be. But the tax returns for many taxpayers are very simple and easy to prepare. They're so easy that the IRS has created a simple one-page form to use: IRS Form 1040-EZ, Income Tax Return for Single and Joint Filers with No Dependents. If you qualify to use Form 1040-EZ and can read and follow simple instructions, you can easily do your taxes yourself in a few minutes. (However, if you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, your return will be more complicated and you may want to get help.)
You can use IRS Form 1040-EZ only if:
- your filing status is single or married filing jointly
- you (and your spouse if married filing jointly) were under age 65 and not blind at the end of 2012 (if you were born on January 1, 1948, you are considered to be age 65 at the end of 2012)
- you do not claim any dependents
- your taxable income is less than $100,000
- you do not claim itemized deductions or any adjustments to income
- the only tax credit you can claim is the earned income credit
- you had only wages, salaries, tips, taxable scholarship or fellowship grants, unemployment compensation, and your taxable interest was not over $1,500.
Millions of taxpayers meet these requirements.
When Not to Use Form 1040-EZ
Even if you can use Form 1040-EZ, you'll be better off filing Form 1040A or 1040 if:
- you qualify for head of household filing status (which usually results in a lower tax than single filing status)
- you can claim the retirement savings contributions credit (saver's credit), or
- you are eligible for a deduction or tax credit for higher education expenses.
When you use Form 1040-EZ, you must take the standard deduction instead of itemizing your personal deductions. Before doing this, make sure your total itemized deductions are less than the standard deduction. For 2012, the standard deduction is $5,950 for most single people and $11,900 for most married people filing a joint return. Itemized deductions include:
- medical and dental expenses
- deductible taxes
- home mortgage points
- interest expense
- charitable contributions
- miscellaneous expenses
- business use of home
- business use of car
- business travel expenses topic
- business entertainment expenses
- educational expenses
- employee business expenses, and
- casualty, disaster, and theft losses.
You also cannot have any adjustments to income when you file Form 1040-EZ. These are expenses you can deduct without having to itemize. These include deductible IRA contributions, moving expenses, educator expenses, student loan interest, tuition and fees, and alimony paid.
File Electronically for Free
If your adjusted gross income was $57,000 or less in 2012, you can use free tax software to prepare and file your return electronically--the IRS calls this "e-filing." Visit the IRS website for details.
If your income is over the threshold, the IRS offers an electronic version of Form 1040-EZ forms that also can be e-filed for free. Visit the IRS website for details.