1040 Tax Form Instructions

Form 1040, Individual Income Tax Return must be filed by April 15 to report your income to the Internal Revenue Service. A taxpayer can either file Form 1040 online through a tax software or mail it to the IRS.

Given it takes longer for the IRS to process mailed tax returns, we suggest filing electronically. Especially if you’re expecting a refund as it will be issued to you much earlier.

Regardless of how you file a Form 1040, you must do it by April 15. You can also choose to file an extension to push the tax filing deadline to October 15. This will give you additional time to gather your tax documents. However, if you owe any taxes by April 15, you must pay them. With that said, if you’re going to file an extension, estimate taxes and pay the IRS so you don’t pay late fees and interest.

When filing Form 1040, there might be a few lines that is hard to wrap your head around. Without a doubt, Form 1040 is the most complicated IRS tax form that there is. Below, you can see the instructions for it line by line to help you do taxes.

Instructions below are updated for the 2021 tax season.

Form 1040 Line by Line Instructions

Follow our instructions line by line to file Form 1040 on paper or electronically. As long as you have the tax documents that is necessary you file a tax return, it shouldn’t take you more than half an hour to file Form 1040.

Filing Status

1040 Tax Form Instructions

Check the appropriate box according to your filing status. Your filing status can be:

  • Single
  • Married Filing Separately
  • Married Filing Jointly
  • Head of Household
  • Qualifying Widow(er)

Proceed to enter your personal information; you and your spouse’s full name if filing jointly, address, your Social Security Number and your spouse’s if filing jointly,

Standard Deduction and Dependents

1040 Tax Form Instructions

State whether or not someone claims you or your spouse as a dependent, blindness, age, and list dependents you claim. For the dependents you claim on your tax return, you may be qualified for child tax credit or other credits for dependents. If you’re going to claim a tax credit for having dependents, check the box(es) right next to their relationship to you.

Lines 1 to 11 (First Page Instructions)

Line 1. Enter your wages, salaries, and tips. The amount of wages, salaries, and tips can be found on Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement issued to you by your employer.

Line 2. Enter tax-exempt interest on 2a and taxable interest on 2b.

1040 Tax Form Instructions

Line 3. Enter your qualified dividends and ordinary dividends.

Line 4. Enter IRA distributions on 4a and taxable amount on 4b. On 4c, enter pensions and annuities and taxable amount. You can find the taxable amount of pensions on Form 1099-R issued to you by retirement company.

Line 6a. Enter Social Security benefits you received during the course of the tax year and the taxable amount.

1040 Tax Form Instructions

Line 7. Enter capital gains or losses. If required, you must attach Schedule D. If not, check the box on Line 6.

Line 8. Enter other income from Line 9 of Schedule 1. This is the total amount of income coming from rents, gains, alimony, unemployed compensation, farm income, taxable refunds, credits, etc. Add the amounts from Form 1040 Line 1 through 7 and enter it on 7b.

Line 9. Add the previous lines and enter on Line 9. This amount is your total income.

Line 10. Enter the adjustments you made to your income. Use Schedule 1 to determine this. Add lines 10 through 21 on Schedule 1 and enter the results on Line 8b of Form 1040. If you made charitable contributions and you take the standard deduction, enter the charitable contributions on Line 10b and enter the total adjustments on Line 10c.

Line 11. Subtract the amount on Line 10c (total income) from Line 9 (adjustments). This is your adjusted gross income.

Line 12. State whether or not you’re taking the standard deduction or itemizing deductions by entering the deduction amount. If itemizing, attach Schedule A.

Line 13. Enter the qualified business income deduction and attach Forms 8995 or 8995-A.

1040 Tax Form Instructions

Line 14. Add lines 12 through 13 and enter the total.

Line 15. Subtract Line 14 from Line 11 and this is your taxable income. If zero or less, enter “0”.

Lines 16 to 33 (Second Page Instructions)

Line 16. Check if any of the following forms have been filed: Forms 8814, 4972, or one that reports taxes.

Line 17. Enter the amount on Schedule 2, Line 3.

Line 18. Add lines 16 and 17, enter the results.

1040 Tax Form Instructions

Line 19. Enter the child tax credit for the 2021 tax season or credit for other dependents.

Line 20. enter the amount on Schedule 3, Line 7.

Line 21. Add lines 19 through 20.

Line 22. Subtract line 21 from the line 18. If zero or less, enter “0”.

Line 23. Enter other taxes shown on Schedule 2, Line 10; including the self-employment tax.

Line 24. Add lines 22 and 23. This is the amount you owe in taxes.

Line 25. Enter the federal estimated taxes withheld from information returns such as Form W2 and 1099.

Line 26. Enter 2020 estimated tax payments applied from the previous year’s return.

Line 27. Enter the earned income tax credit you’re claiming.

Lin 28. Enter the additional child tax credit. If you’re claiming this tax credit, attach Form 8812.

1040 Tax Form Instructions

Line 29. Enter the American opportunity credit shown on Form 8863, Line 8.

Line 30. Recovery rebate credit if you haven’t claimed a stimulus check in 2020.

Line 31. Enter the amount shown on Schedule 3, Line 3.

Line 32. Add lines 27 through 31, and enter the results. This is the tax credits you’re taking that are refundable.

Line 33. Add lines 25d, 26, and 32. These are the taxes you paid during the tax year including the tax credits.

Tax Refund and Owed Tax

Line 34. If line 33 is more than line 24, subtract 24 from 33. This is the amount you overpaid, in other words, your refund.

Line 35. Enter the amount you want refunded to you and if Form 8888 is attached, check the box.

1040 Tax Form Instructions

Enter your routing number on 35b, account type on 35c, account number on 35d.

Line 36. Enter the amount you want to apply to your 2021 estimated tax. If you don’t want to forward any money for the next tax season, leave it blank.

1040 Tax Form Instructions

Line 37. Subtract line 33 from line 24 to determine the amount you owe. This is for taxpayers who don’t expect to get a refund.

Line 38. Enter the estimated tax penalty.

Enter your signature, date, occupation, and IRS identity protection PIN if required. If filing jointly, your spouse also needs to enter these.

The bottom of Form 1040 is used by third-party designee and paid preparers only. Once Form 1040 is complete, staple other tax documents such as W-2, Schedule 1, Schedule A, etc. and mail your tax return to the following addresses.

Keep in mind that you must mail your tax return with USPS. Any shipping service other than USPS will be considered as Private Delivery Service and your return may be returned back to you.

IRS Mailing Addresses (for paper returns)

State of ResidenceWith PaymentWithout Payment
Alabama, North Carolina, South CarolinaInternal Revenue Service
P O Box 1214
Charlotte, NC 28201-1214
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Kansas City, MO 64999-0002
Alaska, California, Hawaii, WashingtonInternal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 7704
San Francisco, CA 94120-7704
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Fresno, CA 93888-0002
Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, WyomingInternal Revenue Service
P O Box 802501
Cincinnati, OH 45280-2501
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Ogden, UT 84201-0002
Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee, VirginiaInternal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 931000
Louisville, KY 40293-1000
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Kansas City, MO 64999-0002
Connecticut, District of Columbia, Maryland, Rhode Island, West VirginiaInternal Revenue Service
P. O. Box 931000
Louisville, KY 40293-1000
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Ogden, UT 84201-0002
Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, VermontDepartment of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Kansas City, MO 64999-0002
Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 37008
Hartford, CT 06176-7008
Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, TexasInternal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 1214
Charlotte, NC 28201-1214
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Austin, TX 73301-0002
PennsylvaniaInternal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 37008
Hartford, CT 06176-7008
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Ogden, UT 84201-0002
IRS Form 1040 – Form 1040-SR Mailing Addresses


    1. In the 2020 Tax forms regarding 1040 Attachment Worksheet Mini worksheet for line 32 Unemployment Compensation Line f, asking if line E amount = or above $150,000.00
      Is this limit (150,000.) for combined income Man & Wife filing a joint return? Or is this limit(150,000.) for individual
      filing a separate return?
      Wife income= $186,810. with no unemployment
      Husband income $31,418. which includes $11,721.00 of unemployment compensation
      Thank you, Jay

      1. Hello Jay,

        On a joint return, you don’t qualify for the unemployment tax break. The modified adjusted gross income limit is $150,000 for all taxpayers regardless of filing status. However, if you file a separate return, you’ll get the unemployment tax break as your MAGI is less than $150,000. Although it sounds nice and all, it might lead to paying even more tax than you would though. Because you may not be eligible for certain tax breaks that only joint filers get such as the IRA contributions deduction. It’s best to calculate the tax liability on a joint return and a separate return, then decide which is best for both of you. So just because you don’t get unemployment tax break, don’t go on filing a separate return.

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