What Is IRS Form 1040-SR?

IRS Form 1040-SR explained in less than five minutes

Older couple using laptop at home on couch
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DEFINITION

IRS Form 1040-SR is a version of the 1040 tax return that's been created specifically for use by senior citizens. Lawmakers have been trying for years to cut seniors a bit of a break at tax time, and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 finally took a solid step in that direction, providing for this form. Individuals aged 65 and older now have their own tax return, the 1040-SR.

Definition and Example of Form 1040-SR

Form 1040-SR was first proposed in 2013 as part of the Seniors Tax Simplification Act. The AARP, the National Taxpayers Union, and the Association of Mature Americans all supported the bill, but it didn't win the approval of the Senate at that time.

However, on Feb. 9, 2018, the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) was signed into law by President Donald Trump. The BBA required that the IRS create and publish a tax return for older adults, and Form 1040-SR was introduced.

2021 Form 1040-SR

Who Uses Form 1040-SR?

Taxpayers born before Jan. 2, 1957, can use Form 1040-SR to file taxes during this tax season.

Filers don't have to be retired to qualify to use this form. Only one spouse must meet the age requirement if you're married and filing a joint return. Filers are also not required to use this form; anyone can still use the regular Form 1040.

Where to Get Form 1040-SR

Older adults can access Form 1040-SR in two ways. The IRS offers a digital version of the form on its website. You can complete it, then save it to your computer, and print it out.

You can also access the form via reputable tax software providers if you use one to prepare your return.

According to the IRS, more than 90% of taxpayers use software to prepare and file their tax returns.

How to Read and Fill Out Form 1040-SR

You might not realize, upon first glance at Form 1040-SR, that you're not looking at the standard Form 1040. Many of the lines and sections are the same. The top of the first page is where you enter personal information, such as your name, address, Social Security number, and filing status.

This is followed by the section where you must state whether anyone else can claim your or your spouse as a dependent, and it's where you check the appropriate box to indicate that you were born before Jan. 2, 1957.

The next section asks you to identify any dependents you're claiming by name, Social Security number, and their relationship to you.

Next, you must report your various sources of income on lines 1 through 8, such as wages and salaries, dividends and interest, and various retirement benefits, including Social Security. Add them together, and enter the total on line 9.

Lines 10 is where you write in your adjustments to income, which you will need to figure out via Schedule 1, the form for “Additional Income and Adjustments to Income.” 

There are several schedules that you may need to fill out and file in conjunction with Form 1040-SR. A tax professional may be able to help you if you find yourself dealing with multiple schedules.

The second page of Form 1040-SR is where you claim your standard deduction or the total of your itemized deductions as calculated on Schedule A. Schedule A must also be submitted with your tax return if you itemize. Page 2 also has a spot to claim charitable contributions if you take the standard deduction (up to $300 per individual or $600 for married taxpayers filing jointly for tax year 2021).

You can also claim tax credits like the child tax credit, the credit for other dependents, earned income credit, and more on page 2. Again, completing and filing some additional schedules might be required.

One of the main features of Form 1040-SR is the large typeface, designed for easier reading.

Can Form 1040-SR Be E-Filed?

Form 1040-SR can be filed electronically, just as Form 1040 can. The IRS recommends filing your tax return electronically, because paper returns may take longer to process. If your adjusted gross income was $73,000 or less in 2021, you can use the IRS Free File program on its website.

Where to Mail Form 1040-SR

If you prefer not to e-file, the mailing address for your completed tax return depends on the state in which you live and whether you're enclosing a payment. The IRS provides a listing of the addresses for each state on its website.

Benefits of Form 1040-SR

Many older adults were forced to file the more complicated Form 1040 in past years simply by virtue of the nature of their retirement incomes. The IRS provided Form 1040-EZ through 2017 to make the process easier, but this form limited overall income to $100,000, and interest income to $1,500 annually. Form 1040-EZ was repealed in 2018 when the IRS revamped the standard Form 1040 tax return. Even older adults who met the 1040-EZ income requirements no longer had that option.

The 1040-SR doesn't put a limit on interest, dividends, or capital gains, nor does it cap overall income.

Key Takeaways

  • Form 1040-SR is a tax return designed specifically to meet the needs of older adults.
  • Taxpayers must be at least age 65 to use Form 1040-SR, with one exception. Only one spouse must be age 65 or older if they’re filing a joint married return.
  • The form is very similar to the standard Form 1040, but the font is larger and clearer, and it includes a chart for helping older taxpayers determine the additional amount of the standard deduction they’re entitled to.
  • Older adults are not required to file Form 1040-SR and can still use the regular Form 1040 if they so choose.

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