Starting a company

Navigating Form 1040: A Step-by-Step Guide to Your Tax Return

Key takeaways

  • Learn how to complete Form 1040, the United States Individual Income Tax Return.
  • Learn about the many sections of Form 1040, such as income, deductions, and credits.
  • Understand the significance of correctly reporting all sources of income on Form 1040.
  • Learn about the many types of deductions and credits available to lower your taxable income.
  • Learn how to use Form 1040 to calculate your taxable income and tax liability.
  • Recognize the importance of giving accurate and complete information on Form 1040 in order to prevent fines and potential audits.
  • Know about the Form 1040 filing deadlines and any related payment obligations.
  • Learn how to submit your federal tax payments, refunds, and outstanding amounts on Form 1040.

People in the United States utilize Form 1040 to file their yearly income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It is also known as the Individual Income Tax Return for the United States.

Individuals must complete Form 1040 to comply with their tax duties and avoid penalties or legal repercussions for neglecting to file or pay taxes owing. Filing can also result in prospective benefits such as claiming deductions, credits, or refunds.

Importance and benefits of filing

The following are some of the advantages of submitting Form 1040:

  • Deductions: Deductions reduce taxable income, resulting in a lesser tax burden. Charitable contributions, mortgage interest, and state and local taxes are all common deductions.

  • Claiming credits: Credits immediately lower tax obligations, and certain credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, are refundable, which means that the individual may receive a refund even if the credit exceeds the tax due.

  • Refunds: If a person overpaid taxes throughout the year, they can seek a refund by submitting Form 1040.

  • Avoiding penalties: Failure to file or pay taxes can result in fines and interest charges, which can mount up over time and cause financial hardship.

Repercussions of not filing the form

Failure to file Form 1040 can have major consequences, including:

  • Fines and interest charges: The IRS has the authority to levy fines and interest charges for failure to file, failure to pay, or underpayment of taxes owed.

  • Legal action: The IRS has the right to take legal action against individuals who fail to file or pay their taxes, including liens on property and wage garnishment.

  • Reduced credit score: Failure to submit taxes can have a negative influence on an individual's credit score and make it more difficult to get loans or credit in the future.

Who is eligible to file Form 1040?

Business finance man calculating budget numbers, invoices and financial adviser working.

The IRS requires most U.S. citizens and residents to submit Form 1040 to record their annual income and pay any taxes owed. Individuals who make income from wages, salaries, tips, self-employment, or investments must generally submit a tax return using Form 1040 if they fulfill certain filing conditions.

  • They are unmarried and expect to make at least $12,550 in 2021.
  • They are filing jointly and have a combined income of at least $25,100 in 2021.
  • They are filing separately and have at least $5 in earnings in 2021.
  • They are self-employed, and their net earnings from self-employment in 2021 will be at least $400.
  • They got unemployment benefits, Social Security, or other taxable income.
  • They must pay alternative minimum tax (AMT) or return the premium tax credit.

Types of business structures, income types, and income range or threshold for eligibility

  • Sole Proprietorship: A sole proprietorship's revenue and costs are recorded on Schedule C of Form 1040. The business's net income (or loss) is then transferred to the individual's Form 1040 and stated on Line 1 of Schedule 1. There is no set revenue range or requirement for filing a Schedule C because anybody can disclose company income on their tax return.

  • Partnership revenue: These including their costs are reported on Form 1065, and each partner receives a Schedule K-1 detailing their portion of the partnership's income (or loss). The Schedule K-1 revenue is subsequently moved to the partner's Form 1040 and reported on Line 9 of Schedule 1. 
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC can be taxed as either a sole proprietorship (if there is just one member) or a partnership (if there are numerous members). An LLC taxed as a sole proprietorship reports its income and expenses on Schedule C of Form 1040, but an LLC taxed as a partnership files a Form 1065 and provides its members with Schedule K-1s.
  • Company: A company files Form 1120 to record its revenue and costs, and the net income (or loss) is taxed at the corporate level. If the business pays out income to shareholders in the form of dividends, the shareholders must declare those dividends on their tax returns (Form 1040) and pay taxes on them at their tax rates. As anybody can incorporate a corporation, there is no set income range or threshold for filing an incorporation 1120.

Types of businesses and incomes not included

When considering company structures and income kinds, several sorts of firms and earnings are left out. For example, Non-profit organizations are not for profit and are free from taxes. Their income is not recorded on Form 1040 or any other individual tax form. Government agencies are not considered companies since they are government-supported, and their revenues are not disclosed on individual tax returns. Stock, bond, and real estate investment income is not company income and should not be recorded on business tax forms. Employee pay, salaries, and tips are not considered company revenue and should be recorded on Line 1 of Form 1040. Schedule C of Form 1040 is used to record self-employment income.

What are the different schedules used with Form 1040?

Individuals often utilize Form 1040 to file their federal income tax returns. Form 1040 has many schedules for reporting certain types of income or deductions. These timetables include:

  • Schedule A: Itemized deductions such as medical costs, state and local taxes, charity contributions, and mortgage interest are reported on this form.
  • Schedule B: This is the form used to record interest and dividend income, as well as foreign accounts and trusts.
  • Schedule C is used to report sole proprietorship business revenue and costs.
  • Schedule D: This form is used to record capital gains and losses from the sale of investments like stocks and bonds.
  • Schedule E: This is the form used to report rental income and losses, as well as revenue from partnerships, S companies, and trusts.
  • Schedule F is used to report farming revenue and costs.
  • Schedule H: This form is used to report the taxes paid for home employees.
  • Schedule SE: This form is used to compute self-employment tax.
  • Schedule 1: Used to record extra income or income changes, such as alimony, student loan interest, or contributions to a retirement plan.

Aspects to keep in mind while filing the form

3d illustration of pen putting blue ticks on paper

It is important to note down the process of filling out the form before we move on to the minute aspects:

  • Collect all required paperwork, such as W-2s, 1099s, and other income and deduction records.
  • Select your filing status, such as single, married filing jointly, or head of household.
  • Use the relevant schedules and forms to calculate income and deductions.
  • Fill out the primary Form 1040, which includes personal information, income, deductions, and tax payments.
  • Check the form for accuracy and completeness.
  • Sign and date the form, and include any required schedules or paperwork.
  • Mail the completed form to the proper IRS address, or submit it online with tax preparation software or a professional tax preparer.

Things/info/docs required while filing the form

  • Social Security numbers for themselves, their spouse, and any dependent children.
  • W-2s and 1099s are examples of wage and earnings statements.
  • Proof of other income, such as rental or investment income.
  • Documentation of tax-deductible costs, such as charity contributions and medical expenses.
  • Information on any credits or deductions to which they may be entitled.
  • Bank account details for any refunds to be deposited directly into your account.
  • Tax returns for prior years (if filing for many years or modifying a return).

Taxpayers should also be aware of significant Form 1040 dates, including the April 15 deadline for most taxpayers and the October 15 deadline for those who apply for an extension. 

Other versions of Form 1040

In addition to the regular Form 1040, filers may need to utilize one of many alternative forms of the form, depending on their tax circumstances. These are some examples:

  • Form 1040-SR: This is a simplified form of Form 1040 available to taxpayers aged 65 and up. It has bigger language and figures that are more clearly displayed, as well as a few more lines for reporting retirement income and the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled.

  • Form 1040-NR: This form is used by nonresident citizens who have income from sources in the United States that is taxable in the United States. It contains several particular regulations and restrictions that apply only to nonresident foreigners.

  • Form 1040-ES: This is an estimated tax payment voucher that taxpayers can use throughout the year to make quarterly payments of their anticipated tax burden. It is used by self-employed people, freelancers, and those who do not have taxes deducted from their earnings.

  • Form 1040-X: This is the modified tax return form that can be used by taxpayers to repair mistakes or omissions on a previously filed Form 1040. It must be submitted within three years of the initial filing date or two years after the date taxes were paid, whichever comes first.

  • Form 1040-C: Used by US residents who are leaving the country and need to prepay their US tax due before leaving. It provides unique regulations and procedures for taxpayers who are permanently or temporarily leaving the country.


Finally, submitting Form 1040 is an important component of meeting your tax duties as a U.S. taxpayer. It is critical to understand the many schedules and variations of the form that may be required for your particular tax situation. Furthermore, it is critical to keep correct records and collect all relevant information and papers before submitting. Filing your taxes on time and correctly will help you avoid fines and interest, as well as guarantee that you receive any refunds or credits to which you are entitled. As a result, it is critical to take the time to understand the procedure and requirements of completing Form 1040, as well as to obtain expert assistance if necessary.

We can help!

At Levy, we help early-stage founders streamline and automate regulatory and legal ops, HR, and finance so you can focus on what matters most — your business.

Like our content?

Subscribe to our blog to stay updated on new posts. Our blog covers advice, inspiration, and practical guides for early-stage founders navigating their start-up journeys.

Note: Our content is for general information purposes only. Levy does not provide legal, accounting, or certified expert advice. Consult a lawyer, CPA, or other professional for such services.

Get content like this, and more, sent directly to your inbox once a month.

Thank you for subscribing us!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.


Stressing the details?

Let levy handle this for you.
Learn more
No items found.