For most people, filing a tax return means making sure you have the right forms. But with hundreds of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax forms out there, how do you know which ones you need to file?
The key is pinpointing which ones pertain to your individual circumstances. For example, if you’re employed, working as a freelancer, receiving Social Security, or earning income from investments, you’ll find a different form for each situation.
Weeding through the various types of tax forms isn’t always easy, but this guide can help clear up any confusion. Here, read on to learn:
• What are 15 of the more common tax forms out there?
• What do the different tax forms do?
• Who needs to file which tax forms?
The Importance of Knowing Different Tax Forms
IRS income tax forms are the official documents used to report income, expenses, and other financial transactions. In order to figure out whether or not you owe the federal government taxes or if you’ve overpaid in the past year, you’ll need to file a tax return.
A tax return consists of this documentation. While residents of all states use the same federal forms, you may also have to fill out specific state tax forms as well, unless you live in one of the nine states that do not collect state taxes on earned wages. You may also have to fill out certain forms if you live or work in a certain city as well. Check with your particular state and local tax departments or divisions to see if any additional paperwork is necessary to file at tax time.
As mentioned earlier, since there are hundreds of different tax documents, the whole process of understanding your taxes can be dizzying. That’s why knowing the exact forms you’ll need can help you feel less overwhelmed and may prevent you from making any mistakes when filing.
That’s an important point. Submitting a tax return that doesn’t report all your income can trigger an IRS tax audit. You can also incur penalties and interest if you’ve submitted a return with errors and don’t file an amended one. And, yes, there’s a form for that, too.
15 Different Types of Tax Forms
Typically, the more complicated your finances, the more tax forms you’ll probably need. For instance, if you are a freelance worker with multiple clients who also rents out your second home, you’ll have a more complex tax return than a salaried employee with no side-hustle earnings or rental income.
To help make things easier, here’s a list of common tax forms you may need as you prepare for tax season. Knowing what they are can help boost your financial literacy and your tax-filing confidence:
1. Form 1040
The 1040 form is the first step for most taxpayers when filing their annual tax return. It’s the document you use to declare your filing status, report your income, claim deductions and tax credits if you have any, and determine the amount of tax you owe or whether you’re due a tax refund.
Depending on the type of income you need to report, it may be necessary to attach additional forms, also known as schedules. These various schedule forms are used to itemize deductions, report interest and ordinary dividend income, or profit or loss through business, among others.
2. Form 1040-SR
Nearly identical to Form 1040, this document is specifically for people age 65 and older. It’s printed using a larger font so it’s easier to read. Form 1040-SR uses the same schedules and instructions as the main 1040 form and is designed to feature fewer complications than the standard 1040.
3. Form 1040-X
If you find you’ve made a mistake after you’ve filed your return, you’ll want to get Form 1040-X. This form is for taxpayers who need to fix or make amendments after previously filing their 1040 form.
4. Form W-2
Also known as the Wage and Tax Statement, the W-2 form tells you how much money you earned in the previous year and the amount of tax your employer withheld from your paycheck. The statement also supplies other very important information you’ll need when you fill out your 1040. This intel includes how much your employer paid for other benefits including health insurance, dependent care assistance, health savings account (HSA) contributions, and more.
Employers who have withheld income and Social Security should issue a W-2 to their employees and the IRS by January 31. If you haven’t received yours by then, follow up with your employer and let them know.
5. Form 1099-NEC
There are several types of Form 1099, which is a record from an entity or person other than your employer (if you’re a salaried worker) who paid you income during the year that’s subject to a self-employment tax. According to the IRS, a self-employment tax is one consisting of Social Security and Medicare taxes primarily for individuals who work for themselves.
The 1099-NEC, which the IRS rolled out in 2020, is what companies or individuals now use to report money paid to any non-employees who did work for them. If the business or employer paid the freelancer, independent contractor, or gig worker more than $600 a year in non-employee compensation, they should send you a Form 1099-NEC. The employer that paid you will also send a copy to the IRS.
6. Form 1099-MISC
Form 1099-MISC is used by businesses when reporting other miscellaneous paid income such as rents, attorney fees, royalties, commissions, prizes, or awards paid to third parties. In general, an individual will get a 1099-MISC form to report payments such as these that are not subject to self-employment taxes.
7. Form 1099-G
Form 1099-G is issued by a government agency if you’ve received certain government taxable income, such as unemployment benefits. The form also provides information on other government payments such as state and local tax refunds, credits or offsets, taxable grants, and money received from the Department of Agriculture. You’ll need to report information from Form 1099-G on your federal return.
Most states mail it out and may send more than one to you. However, some states don’t. If you need to access your state form, try obtaining it online from your state’s department of revenue or contact the department directly.
People who receive Social Security benefits during the tax year will receive a SSA-1099 form from the Social Security Administration. The SSA-1099 form tells you how much Social Security income to report to the IRS on your tax return and is mailed out each January to people who receive benefits. The IRS will also receive a copy of this form.
If Social Security was your only type of income last year, your benefits may not be taxable and therefore, you may not need to file a tax return. However, if you have income from other sources, you may have to pay taxes on some of your benefits.
9. Form 1099-R
Individuals who have received $10 or more from their retirement plan should receive a 1099-R. Besides reporting distributions from retirement plans, the 1099-R also covers annuities, profit-sharing plans, IRAs, insurance contracts, or pensions. Additionally, any rollover transfers from one retirement account to another will also be reported on Form 1099-R. The plan issuer is responsible for sending out the form to the taxpayer, but, as with most forms, it’s on the individual to include it when filing.
10. Form 1099-INT
The 1099-INT form is used by taxpayers to report any income received from interest. This statement comes from the entity who issues the interest payments. Interest income can come from a mutual fund, brokerage, bank, or a U.S. Savings Bond.
Payers must issue a Form 1099-INT to any party to whom they paid at least $10 of interest during the year. The document includes a roundup and categorization of all types of interest income and associated expenses. People should receive Form 1099-INT from their particular financial institution, which also makes sure the IRS gets a copy. The information should be reported on your tax return.
11. Form 1099-DIV
Individuals who have received $10 or more in dividends or distributions from any type of investment, should get a 1099-DIV form from the financial institution with whom they invest. Since dividends are an extra income stream for investors, the money has to be reported to the IRS.
Investors can receive more than one 1099-DIV if their portfolio spans multiple investment funds. Any 1099-DIV form figures should be reported when filing.
12. Form 1098 Mortgage Interest Statement
If you’re a homeowner with a mortgage and paid any interest over $600, you’ll get Form 1098 from the lender. Form 1098 reports the amount of mortgage interest you paid during the year. Your lender, though, isn’t required to send you this form if your mortgage interest was less than $600. Mortgage interest can be taken as an itemized deduction.
13. Form 1098-T
The 1098-T form is sent by eligible universities, colleges, and vocational schools to students who paid qualified educational expenses in the prior year. Qualified educational expenses include tuition, books, any required enrollment fees, and course materials for those who have attended an eligible educational institution. These specific expenses may entitle you to a tax credit or an adjustment to income, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
14. Form 1098-E
Form 1098-E is a student loan tax form that reports the amount of interest paid on a student loan. Loan lenders submit a copy of this form to the IRS and send one to the borrower who paid $600 or more in interest during the tax year. On the flip side, if you didn’t pay at least $600 in student loan interest, you won’t receive any 1098-E forms. Students with more than one loan servicer will receive a separate 1098-E form from each lender.
Use your 1098-E Form to figure out your student loan tax deduction. Borrowers can deduct up to $2,500 in interest from their taxable income if they meet certain requirements, such as not being claimed as a dependent on anyone else’s tax return or not filing your taxes as married filing separately, among other circumstances.
15. Form 4868
Need more time to file your taxes? If so, you’ll want to fill out IRS Form 4868 , also called Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Form 4868 gives taxpayers an additional 6 months to file their federal income tax returns.
If you decide that you do need a tax extension, be sure to file Form 4868 by the normal April filing deadline. By obtaining the extension, you avoid any late-filing penalties as long as you file by the extended due date. However, it’s important to note that any taxes due must still be paid on time.
Recommended: What Happens if I Miss the Tax Filing Deadline?
5 Tips for Filling Out Your Tax Forms
Now that you know a bit more about common tax forms in the United States, here’s some advice on filling out your tax return in time for the mid-April deadline.
• Start gathering your paperwork early. Give yourself time to make sure you’re not missing any tax documents. It’s better to have ample time to track them down if you don’t receive them from your employer, brokerage firm, or bank, for example.
• Enter your information on your return correctly. Avoid any headaches down the road by ensuring you’re entering the right information. Even one incorrect Social Security or tax ID number, name spelling, or not signing and dating all the relevant pages can cause problems in processing your return. If you’re filing your taxes for the first time, double-checking the details is a great habit to start.
• Have last year’s tax information handy. It might be helpful to have your federal and, if applicable, your state return accessible as a guide and good refresher of what you filed last year and the forms you used.
• Get help from the IRS. The IRS provides online instructions on how to fill out the various tax forms. You can plug in the particular form number you need help with into the search field here .
• Consider using a professional tax preparer or tax software. This is especially true if your taxes tend to be more complex, you’re strapped for time, or the thought of filling out forms yourself sends you into panic mode. Although it costs more than filing yourself, having someone else who knows exactly how to file a tax return on your side can help alleviate unnecessary anxiety and stress. The same holds true for tax software. By getting professional support in this way, you may also uncover deductions, which can lower your taxable income, that you didn’t know you were eligible for.
Tax time can be stressful and confusing, especially if your tax situation is more complex. Being familiar with the types of tax returns and the specific IRS tax forms can help make things easier, especially if you’re doing the filing yourself. Keeping track of the statements you receive from employers, financial and educational institutions, loan lenders, and more can help ensure your taxes are done accurately by Tax Day.
3 Money Tips
- Direct deposit is the fastest way to get an IRS tax refund. More than 9 out of 10 refunds are issued in less than 21 days using this free service, plus you can track the payment and even split the funds into different bank accounts.
- If you’re faced with debt and wondering which kind to pay off first, it can be smart to prioritize high-interest debt first. For many people, this means their credit card debt; rates have recently been climbing into the double-digit range, so try to eliminate that ASAP.
- When you overdraft your checking account, you’ll likely pay a non-sufficient fund fee of, say, $35. Look into linking a savings account to your checking account as a backup to avoid that, or shop around for a bank that doesn’t charge you for overdrafting.
What tax forms are the most important?
The key tax forms most people need to know about are Form 1040 (the U.S. Individual Income Tax Return that gets filed by Tax Day); a W-2 if you’re a regular employee or contractor who has had your taxes withheld by the employer; the 1099s which reflect other forms of income than a salary; and the 1098s (mortgage interest statement, tuition payments, and the life).
How many tax forms do people file a year on average?
The number of tax forms people file will vary. Some people may only be required to pay federal taxes. Others may pay federal, state, and local taxes and therefore file different types of tax returns to reflect that. Perhaps they run a business and need to file other forms related to that. Each tax filer has a unique set of circumstances and requirements.
How many types of tax forms are there?
There are over 800 different tax forms, according to the IRS. Those are for both individuals and businesses. However, just because there is such an array of forms doesn’t mean you will wind up encountering that many. It’s perfectly possible for an individual to just receive, say, a W-2 outlining their wages, and a 1099-INT showing the interest earned on their savings account.
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Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
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