Fill Out a US 1040A Tax Return

When tax time comes around there are many decisions to make. One of them is which return form to file. In an effort to simplify filling out the form, a guide on filling out the return will come in handy. This will take you step by step, line by line, through all the most common forms. Business schedules, real estate, fishing, farming, contractor, or statutory incomes are sometimes complicated, and not that common these forms will not be covered here.


IRS Form 1040A

Doc:IRS Form 1040A

Filling Out Your Own 1040A Tax Return

  1. Put your address label into the address section at the top, or simply fill it in by hand.
  2. Check the $3 dollar box for you, and your spouse if you're filing married. Federal law provides that anyone qualified by the Constitution has the right to run for president, however, the election registration process has attempted to control this by demanding excessive registration fees. The $3 pays these fees for the candidate who can't afford them.
  3. Fill in your Determine-Your-Tax-Filing-Status. Unlike the EZ return, you can choose any of the 5 statuses. Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household, or Qualifying Widow(er). Single or Married Filing Jointly are the most common.
  4. Check box 6a and b, unless someone else can claim you on their taxes. This can happen if you or your spouse has an income, but do not pay 50% of your own support. This can happen if you are still living at home for convenience, are married, and a full-time student. If you can be claimed on someone else's tax return, do not check 6a or b, and do not check dependent exemptions, you can not claim yourself. If your spouse can be claimed on someone else's return, you can not file as Married Filing Jointly. It does not matter that someone else does claim you, only that they can.
  5. Enter the name, SSN, and relationship of each dependent.
  6. Enter the total number of exemptions on line 6d.
  7. Enter your gross wages, salaries, and tips from block 1 of your W-2 into line 7. Attach your W-2 Wage and Tax Statement to the return.
    • If you are filing after February 15, and you still don't have your W-2 Wage and Tax Statement, call the IRS and give them your name, full address, SSN, dates of employment, and your employer's name, full address, and phone. If you don't receive the W-2 within a reasonable period of time, file a substitute W-2. You can print one off a blank W-2. Make sure you have figured the tax withheld, day for day, until Dec 31.
  8. Fill in your taxable interest, if any, in line 8a and your tax exempt interest in line 8b. Don't get the 2 confused.
  9. Enter your ordinary dividends on line 9a, and your qualified dividends on 9b. Refer to page 22 in your instructions if you have any questions.
  10. Fill in your Capital gain distributions from your worksheet on page 22.
  11. Enter your IRA distributions on line 11a, and the taxable amount on 11b.
  12. Add Pension and annuities on line 12a, and the taxable amount on 12b.
  13. Fill in your unemployment compensation, if any, in line 13.
  14. Enter your Social Security Benefits on line 14a, and their taxable amount on line 14b. Take this total from the worksheet found on page 83 of IRS Pub. 17
  15. Add lines 7 - 14b (far right column). This is your Total Income.
  16. Fill in your Educator expenses (If available, for teachers) on line 16. See page 25 of the instructions.
  17. Enter your IRA deduction on line 17. See page 27 of the instructions.
  18. Configure student loan interest from page 28 of the instructions. Add this on line 18.
  19. Figure your Tuition and Fees deduction from form 8917 using your secondary tuition and fees paid during that year. Enter this on line 19.
  20. Add lines 16 through 19. These are your total adjustments. Enter this on line 20.
  21. Subtract line 20 from 15. Enter this on line 21. This is your Adjusted Gross Income.
  22. At the top of the second page write your full name(s) and SSN(s). If you are filing Married Filing Jointly for the year during which your spouse died, or are filing Qualified Widow(er), write DECEASED after your spouse's name.
  23. Enter the amount from line 21 on line 22.
  24. If you or your spouse is 65 or older, or blind check the boxes on line 23a and fill the total into the box at the end of that line.
  25. If you are Married Filing Separately, check 23b, unless you itemize.
  26. Enter your standard deduction from the chart on line 24.
  27. Subtract line 24 from line 22. Insert the amount on line 25.
  28. Enter your personal deduction on page 26.
  29. Subtract line 26 from line 25. Insert the total on line 27.
  30. Insert Dependent Child Care Expenses (Publ 2441) on line 29. Attach schedule 2.
  31. Insert elderly or disabled credit on line 30. Attach schedule 3.
  32. Insert education credits on line 31. Attach form 8863.
  33. Fill in Child Tax Credit (Publ 972) from page 32. Attach form 8901.
  34. Enter Retirement Savings contributions credit on line 33. Attach form 8880.
  35. Add lines 29 through 33. These are the total credits. Enter this on line 34.
  36. Subtract line 34 from line 28. Enter zero on line 35 if 34 is larger than 28.
  37. Enter the advanced earned income credit payment, on line 36, from box 9 on your W-2 Wage and Tax Statement.
  38. Add lines 35 and 36. This is your total tax on line 37.
  39. Enter your Federal Income Tax Withheld from Line 38 on your W-2 Wage and Tax Statement.
  40. Previous year estimated tax payment and amount applied from the next earlier year. Add this on line 39.
  41. Fill in line 40a with the Earned income credit, Pub 596, and 40b with the nontaxable combat pay election.
  42. Enter your additional child tax credit. Attach form 8812.
  43. Add lines 38, 39, 40a, and 41. These are your total payments. Enter the total on line 42.
  44. Subtract line 42 from 37. If line 42 is larger than line 37, line 43 is your overpayment.
  45. On 44a enter the amount you want refunded. If you are filing Married Filing Jointly, and you want the refund split, attach a form 8888. and check the box at 44a. Fill in the routing number and account number for a single deposit in 44b, and c.
  46. On line 45 you can designate an amount of your refund to next year's taxes.
  47. If line 37 is larger than 42, enter the amount of tax you owe in line 46.
  48. Check page 53 to see if there is a tax penalty. Enter this in line 47.
  49. Sign the signature lines. Include the date and your occupation. Also, include a phone number. If your spouse died during the year, the executor or administrator of the will should sign for that spouse.


  • Make sure all lines are filled in.
  • Many of the credits require separate forms to be included to support those claimed on side 2 of Form 1040A. Make sure they are filled in correctly and completely.
  • The IRS rules are very forgiving when you look to pay the minimum tax and gaining the maximum refund, not so should you make unlawful claims.
  • Read and fill out all of the credit and deduction forms. Leave the 1040A form for last. Read the 1040A. Fill out the forms as you go along, and put the end results on the return. When they are all done, do the math. When that's finished, the return will almost fill itself out.
  • Because of the Special Rules, MFS would generally assess a higher tax. IRS Pub. 17 p. 23
  • Don't get Common-Law and Community Property confused.
  • Common Law marriages must be dissolved or separated in the same means as marriages in all other states.
  • IRS Publication 17 is called the Preparer's Bible. If you have any questions about exemptions, deductions, or credits you will find all your answers here.
  • The Third Party Designee line and the last 2 lines are only for professional tax preparers. Since this is about doing your own taxes, you don't need these.
  • For more forms that are commonly used in personal filing see the IRS Picklist. [1]
  • Forms and Instructions are listed on the IRS Form Picklist. [2]
  • Publications are listed on the IRS Publication Picklist. [3]
  • All forms are searchable on the IRS Topical Index. [4]


  • This is not tax advice. Tax laws change from year to year. This article attempts to stay within the most common adjustments. It is intended to give you the information to do your taxes yourself. You should be able to do every kind of the most common individual taxes with the instructions and the Pub 17. However, if you run into questions that are just too confounding, don't hesitate to call the IRS help line. They don't bite. Really.
  • The IRS will pursue you if anything on your return seems fraudulent. If they bring an error to you attention, just correct it and follow it through. File a 1040X Amended form as soon as possible to correct the error. It's a correction process that's there to help you amend an error. The only thing you can really do wrong is to ignore it or run from it.

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Sources and Citations

  • IRS Pub 17
  • 1040EZ Instructions