Federal Tax Returns

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What is a Tax Return?

A tax return is a document that you have to file with the government showing how much money you made during the year. You must file your tax return by April 17th for the tax year that ends on the previous December 31st.

Who Has to File?

Click here to see a more in depth look at who must file a tax return. Generally, you must file a tax return if you earned any sort of wage or income in the previous tax year. 

Forms Needed

You can use one of three tax forms: 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ. You will also need your W-2 form and Form 1098-T. Your W-2 is the form that reports your annual income and how much tax was withheld from your paycheck. The 1098-T form shows student paid "qualified educational expenses" in the previous tax year. These forms are "fill in the blank" and fairly easy to understand once you have the proper documentation and information.

Other Information Needed When Filing:

  • Proof of identification
  • Filing status
  • Residency status
  • Social security number for you, your spouse, and any dependents
  • Birth dates for you, your spouse, and any dependents
  • A copy of your past tax return
  • Statements of interest/dividends from banks, brokerages, etc
  • Proof of any of tax credits, tax deductions, or tax exclusions
  • Your bank account number and routing number for direct deposit

How Do You File?

Tax Form Comparison

Tax Forms




Allows you to claim multiple expenses and tax credits

Income is only from wages, tips, interest, ordinary dividends, capital gains distributions, taxable scholarships or fellowship grants, unemployment compensation, etc.

Single filing

You may itemize deductions

You do not itemize deductions

Married filing jointly

Your taxable income is greater than $100,000

Your taxable income is less than $100,000

No dependents to claim

You may adjust your income

Only credits you are claiming are the credit for child and dependent care expenses

No adjustment income claim

Everyone qualifies to use this form

You do not have an alternative minimum tax adjustment on stock you acquired

Any earned tips are in boxes 5&7 of W2

The longest form of the three. Often called "long form"

Your only adjustments to income are the IRA deduction, student loan interest deduction, and tuition and fees deduction

Do not owe any household employment taxes

Rule of thumb: "When in doubt, file tax form 1040" Often called "short form"

You have not filed a chapter 11 bankruptcy case after Oct 16 2005

Where Do You Send the Tax Return When You're Done?

You must submit the forms to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) once you have finished filing out the forms. The address that you need to send it to is listed on the instructions for the 1040 forms. If you owe any additional income tax for previous years, include that with your form in order to avoid interest charges.