Form 1040 is used by U.S. taxpayers to file annual federal income tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service introduced a whole new Form 1040 for the 2018 tax year after passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). The form was supposed to be easier for taxpayers, but those with more complex filings and financial situations found a number of unwelcome changes.
The IRS touted the 2018 tax form as being “postcard-sized,” but Form 1040 is still 8.5 x 11 inches. It fits on one sheet of paper, however, front and back. The front page just covers basic, identifying information and it includes spaces for signatures. Your financial information is supposed to go on the back of the page, "page 2."
What Is the 2018 Form 1040?
The TCJA turned many tax provisions upside down early in 2018, and the IRS and the Treasury Department decided that the 2017 Form 1040 was no longer up to the task as a result. The old form contained numerous lines for tax provisions that didn't exist anymore.
The TCJA repealed personal exemptions, so the IRS got rid of the line on the 2017 Form 1040 that let you enter the number of personal exemptions you were claiming. The old form also included several lines for deductions and other items that were repealed.
Types of Forms 1040
The 2018 Form 1040 not only replaced the 2016 tax return, but it replaced the simpler Forms 1040-A, and 1040-EZ as well. They're no longer available for tax years 2018 and going forward, although you can still use them to file returns for tax years 2017 and earlier.
Form 1040X, the amended tax return, remains more or less the same as it's always been. This is the version of the form you would file if you realize you made a mistake on your original return.
The IRS has indicated that you should still use the old form for that particular tax year if you want to file an overdue original return for previous years.
Where to Get a Form 1040
You're probably blissfully unaware of all these changes if you use tax preparation software. You’d still simply answer some questions, and the software provider you select will obligingly complete and e-file Form 1040 for the current tax year, as well as any required schedules for you.
Otherwise, you can download the 2018 Form 1040 from the IRS website if you prefer to prepare your return yourself. You can also complete the return online and simply print out or save a copy.
How to Fill Out and Read the 2018 Form 1040
The 2018 Form 1040 tax return is simplified with only 23 lines, down from 79 on the 2017 Form 1040, but this doesn't necessarily mean it's easier to fill out.
The IRS still needs all the same tax information from you. You're just not going to detail it all on Form 1040 anymore. A great deal of tax information was relocated to other forms in 2018—numbered schedules that you complete and include with your tax return when you file. The IRS called this a "building block" approach.
For example, you’d have to complete and submit Schedule 1 if your income included unemployment compensation. The same applies if you’re self-employed or have any other Form 1099 income. Basically, you’ll have to complete and attach the Schedule 1 introduced in 2018 if you would normally complete Schedules C, D, E, or F with your tax return.
The six numbered schedules that were launched in 2018 include:
- Schedule 1: Additional income and adjustments to income
- Schedule 2: Excess advance premium tax credit repayments and alternative minimum tax
- Schedule 3: Non-refundable tax credits
- Schedule 4: "Other" taxes, including the self-employment tax
- Schedule 5: Tax payments and refundable tax credits
- Schedule 6: Third party designees other than paid preparers and foreign addresses
Three of these schedules were subsequently removed the very next year. There are only three numbered schedules as of tax year 2019.
Those old lettered schedules are still around, and they haven’t changed. You still have to complete them, too, just as you always did—in addition to one or more of the numbered schedules. While the 2018 Form 1040 has only 23 lines, Schedule 1 has 36.
Can Form 1040 Be E-Filed?
The IRS has long encouraged taxpayers to get away from filing paper returns, and it indicated that 90.4% of taxpayers had e-filed their 2018 Forms 1040 by May 3, 2019. You can e-file Form 1040 through the IRS Free File program if you qualify, by using tax preparation software, or if you have your taxes prepared by a professional.
Where to Mail Form 1040
The mailing address for Form 1040 depends on the state in which you live. The IRS offers a complete list of addresses on its website.
Criticism of the 2018 Form 1040
The 2018 form wasn’t received well at all by taxpayers or tax professionals and, in fact, people were pretty vocal about it. The National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) reported in a July 2018 letter to the IRS that it received approximately 540 comments—“overwhelmingly unfavorable” ones—from its members when it solicited feedback about the shortened form.
Here’s what the NATP wrote about the 2018 Form 1040:
“Many of the comments focused on the observation that the form is essentially no different than it was previously, with the removed lines simply moved to another sheet of paper as an attached schedule. Many felt this does not accomplish the goal of simplification, but rather it creates confusion.”
- The IRS and the Department of the Treasury radically changed the Form 1040 tax return for individual taxpayers effective with the 2018 tax year.
- The 2018 Form 1040 was not particularly well-received, and the IRS again revised the tax return the next year.
- The 2017 tax return included 79 lines whereas the 2018 Form 1040 had only 23.
- The IRS still wants all the same information from you, but you must enter it on six separate pages or schedules when you file for tax year 2018.