What Is Form 1040-A?

IRS Form 1040-A Explained

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Form 1040-A was a simple income tax return available to U.S. taxpayers until the 2018 tax year, when it was taken out of use. All taxpayers must use Forms 1040 or 1040-SR as of the 2020 tax year—the return you'll prepare and file in 2021.

What Was Form 1040-A?

Form 1040-A was a federal income tax return designed to simplify the filing process for certain taxpayers and to limit the mistakes that could come from completing more complex tax forms.

IRS Form 1040-A 2017 Page 1

Form 1040-A covered the most common types of income, deductions, and credits. It was only two pages and 51 lines long in its final iteration, not including personal information and the taxpayer's signature.

Form 1040-A was much faster and easier to prepare by hand than the longer Form 1040, but it covered more deductions and tax credits than Form 1040EZ, the other simplified return option that was available until 2018. For example, it was possible to deduct IRA contributions and student loan interest on the 1040-A, but not on the 1040EZ.

The last time Form 1040-A was used was in 2018, to file taxes for the 2017 tax year. Beginning in 2019, the IRS combined its many iterations of Form 1040, including 1040-A, into two forms: Form 1040 and 1040-SR.

Form 1040-A was also used to help determine whether students filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) could qualify for the simplified needs test. After the elimination of the form in 2019, families are eligible for the simplified needs test if they:

  • Have an adjusted gross income below $75,000
  • Were not required to file Schedules A, B, D, E, F, or H as part of their income tax return
  • Were not required to file a Schedule C or have less than a $10,000 net gain or loss reported on a Schedule C

Who Uses Form 1040-A?

Form 1040-A was previously used by taxpayers who:

  • Had a taxable income of less than $100,000
  • Didn't have income from their own farm or business
  • Didn't have income from self-employment or alimony
  • Didn't want to claim an alternative minimum tax adjustment on stock gained from exercising an incentive stock option
  • Claimed the standard deduction instead of itemizing
  • Could only claim credits for the elderly or the disabled, education, child and dependent care expenses, retirement savings contributions, child tax, or additional child tax, or the earned income credit

Beginning in 2019, taxpayers were required to use this the updated Form 1040 in place of Form 1040-A.

The 2020 Form 1040 has been streamlined compared to the old 1040. Taxpayers who used to file Form 1040-A might not notice much of a difference, but those with more complex tax situations will probably find that they must attach one or more schedules to the revised 2020 Form 1040.

How to File Form 1040-A

You don't have to worry about which tax form to use if you use tax software to prepare your returns. The software will automatically select the appropriate form based on your income and deductions. It will be either Form 1040 or 1040-SR as of tax year 2018.

Most taxpayers will find that they have to file Form 1040. Only taxpayers who were born before January 2, 1956 (as of tax year 2020) have the option to file Form 1040-SR. Some taxpayers will also have to file one or more schedules with their returns as well.

You can most likely file only Form 1040 without any attached schedules if you were previously eligible to file Form 1040-A, and your income, credits, and deductions haven't changed.

You can work with a tax preparation specialist or contact the Internal Revenue Service help services if you're unsure which forms you should complete and file.

Key Takeaways

  • Form 1040-A was a simple tax form used by United States taxpayers to file income tax returns.
  • It was taken out of use for tax year 2018 and replaced by Forms 1040 and 1040-SR.
  • Taxpayers who were previously eligible to use Form 1040-A should use Form 1040 to file their federal income tax return for tax year 2020.