Filing your 2019 Tax Return for Beginners: The Form 1040 Explained

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It is officially tax season, meaning you can now file your 2019 tax return! Additionally, by this point in February, you should have received your W-2 (Understanding your Form W-2) and/or Form 1099 from your employer(s). So, you can now file your 2019 tax return at your convenience. If you are eager and want to receive your tax refund sooner, plan to file your tax return sooner rather than later. If you do not care about your refund, you have until April 15 to file your tax return.

As you may or may not know, the Form 1040, or the U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, is the base tax form for U.S. taxpayers filing their federal income tax return. In 2019, only one version of the Form 1040 exists. However, depending upon your specific situation, you may have to file additional forms and schedules along with your Form 1040. Below, I will detail the Form 1040, providing an easy to follow explanation about the items and reporting requirements of the Form 1040. The following should help you learn how to file your Form 1040 tax return.

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What's new about the Form 1040 for tax year 2019?

Fewer schedules! 
  • The previous six schedules have been consolidated into three schedules.
    • Schedule 1, Part I includes additional income, like business income, gambling income (How to report gambling income and losses?), unemployment compensation, etc.
    • Schedule 1, Part II includes above the line deductions, like student loan interest and self-employment tax.
    • Schedule 2, Part I includes AMT and premium tax repayment.
    • Schedule 2, Part II includes other taxes you may owe.
    • Schedule 3, Part I includes certain nonrefundable credits.
    • Schedule 3, Part II includes certain refundable credits.
IRA and pension reporting now separated!
Capital gain/loss now reported on the Form 1040 line 6!

The standard deduction increased!
  • Single: $12,200
  • MFJ: $24,400
  • HoH: $18,350
Virtual currency reporting
Those are several of the many changes to the 2019 Individual Income Tax Return.

Form 1040 Line Items Explained

Line 1: Wages, Salaries, Tips, etc.
Enter your total amount of wages, salaries, tips earned from your employer(s). This amount should come from the From W-2 Box 1. However, you may need to report additional income not included on your W-2.

Line 2a: Tax-exempt interest
Any tax-exempt interest received during the year should be reported on your tax return. You should receive a Form 1099-INT or a Form 1099-OID. For simplicity, I will only talk about the Form 1099-INT. If you own municipal bonds or other tax-exempt interest generating bonds, you will receive a Form 1099-INT. Simply report the tax-exempt interest amount in Box 2 of your Form 1099-INT on your tax return.

Line 2b; Taxable interest
Simply report your taxable interest from your Form 1099-INT and 1099-OID on your tax return. If your taxable interest total is over $1,500, you must also file a Schedule B.

Line 3a: Qualified dividends
You should receive a Form 1099-DIV if you received qualified dividends during the year. Qualified dividends should be shown on Box 1b of the Form 1099-DIV. Remember to include the qualified dividends in the total amount shown on Line 3b of your tax return.

Line 3b: Ordinary dividends
This amount comes from box 1a of Form 1099-DIV. If the amount exceeds $1,500, you must file the Schedule B.

Line 4a and 4b: IRA distributions
You should report any distribution from your IRA. This amount should be included on your Form 1099-R Box 1.

Line 4c and 4d: Pensions and Annuities
You should report any payments received from your pension or annuities. This amount is also shown in Box 1 of your Form 1099-R.

Line 5a and 5b: Social security benefits
You must report your social security benefits received on your tax return. If applicable, you should receive a Form SSA-1099, which includes the amount in Box 3.

Line 6: Capital gain or loss
If you sold a capital asset during the year, you triggered a capital transaction. Examples of capital assets include stocks and bonds. If applicable, you must file a Form 8949 and Schedule D.

Line 7a: Other Income
Refers to the additional other income from Schedule 1.

Line 7b: Total Income
Once you calculate total income, you apply adjustments, deductions, and credits to determine your tax liability or refund. For guidance on how to calculate your taxable income amount, please follow the link (How to calculate your taxable income amount?)

In conclusion

Filing your taxes can be intimidating. However, many resources exist to make it an easy and efficient process. I hope the post helped you form a better understanding about the Form 1040. Please share with others to help them understand the Individual Income Tax Return. Please comment and connect with me on social media if you have any questions.


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