What Is the 2020 Form 1040?

The 2020 Form 1040 Explained

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IRS Form 1040 is a tax return used by individual filers. The 2020 version of the form is its third major restructuring since tax year 2018. The 2020 version continues to replace Forms 1040-EZ and 1040-A, which were eliminated from the tax code in 2018.

The 2018 Form 1040 introduced numerous schedules that many taxpayers had to figure out and file along with their tax returns. The IRS touted it as a “simpler” version of the old tax return, but that didn’t really turn out to be the case. The IRS went back to the drawing board and undid many of the initial changes when it released another draft of the Form 1040 for tax year 2019, and again for 2020.

Some line items on the 2020 form have changed since the 2019 form.

What Is the 2020 Form 1040?

To understand how the 2020 Form 1040 came to be, it helps to understand what’s happened to the form during the previous two years. The 1040 underwent major changes between 2017 and 2018, then saw relatively minor adjustments in 2019. The 2019 version was “more than a tune-up but less than an overhaul," according to a 2019 blog post by the Tax Policy Center.

The key changes between the 2018 version and 2019 version were the return of the standard deduction, and income reporting and reconciliation to the first page of the income tax return.

All the 2019 changes remain on the first page of the 2020 Form 1040, but the standard deduction—or the total of your itemized deductions as calculated on Schedule A—moved to line 12. It appeared on line 9 of the 2019 return.

Where To Get the 2020 Form 1040

All reputable tax-preparation software includes the 2020 version of Form 1040, and you can also download and print a copy from the IRS website. The form is interactive, so you can complete it online, then print it out and mail in a paper return.

Make sure the 1040 you're downloading is for the correct tax year. The year always appears in the center at the very top of the first page.

How To Fill Out and Read Form 1040

Filling out your 1040 may not seem all that different if you file online via a guided tax-prep tool. Either way, it helps to know what's changed and how that might affect how your 1040 looks when you read over it before filing.

This year’s form has several minor updates, as well as changes to Schedules 1, 2, and 3.

1040 Changes

  • Identifying information for spouses and dependents is at the top of the first page in 2020.
  • Reporting and calculations of taxable income remain at the bottom of the 2020 form.
  • Tax credits and the calculation of any tax owed are on the second page of the 2020 form. Some of the most popular tax credits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and the American Opportunity Credit, have been lifted from the numbered schedules from prior years and placed on the second page of the 2020 Form 1040. There's also a line for the Recovery Rebate Credit, which you can claim if you were qualified for a stimulus payment in 2020 but didn't receive it, or if you didn't receive the correct amount. Tax credits you’re claiming appear on lines 27 through 30 of the Form 1040.

Schedule 1 Changes

The three numbered schedules detail your taxes, credits claimed, payments made, additional income not reported directly on the 1040, and adjustments to income in 2020. The totals from these schedules are then transferred to the tax return.

The 2020 tax year’s Schedule 1 has items on the 1040’s first page that were there in past years, including the reporting of capital gains. Capital gains or losses appear on line 7 of the first page, as does the qualified business income deduction on line 13.

Schedule 1 itemizes any unemployment compensation you might have received in 2020, as well as prizes, monetary awards, and gambling winnings. This form also lists “above the line” adjustments to income you can claim and deduct from your taxable income, such as educator expenses, student-loan interest, and some self-employment perks.

This schedule also asks for additional information about alimony payments you might have made in 2020 and want to claim, because these are no longer deductible or reportable for divorces or marital settlement agreements entered into after December 31, 2018. This information clarifies whether you can deduct, or must report, these payments that were ordered before January 2019.

Schedule 2 Changes

The 2020 Schedule 2 includes information that used to be entered on Schedule 4 in previous years. This includes any self-employment tax you might have to pay, as well as taxes associated with retirement plans.

Schedule 3 Changes

This tax year’s Schedule 3 includes all the same information that appeared on Schedule 3 in 2018, reversing some of the changes seen on the 2019 form. Schedule 3 covers tax credits that you can no longer claim directly on Form 1040, such as the foreign tax credit, and any tax payments you might have made other than through withholding from your paychecks.

Can Form 1040 Be E-Filed?

Not only can the 2020 Form 1040 be e-filed, but the IRS strongly urges taxpayers to do so, particularly during the 2021 tax season. The IRS provides a list of e-filing options on its website.

Where To Mail Form 1040

If you really don’t want to e-file, the address to which you should mail a paper copy of Form 1040 depends on whether you're including a payment and on your state of residence. The IRS offers a full list of addresses for each circumstance and each state on its website.

Requirements for Filing Form 1040

The filing deadline for the 2020 Form 1040 is normally April 15, but it was extended to May 17 in 2021 in response to the ongoing pandemic.

The filing deadline has also been extended to June 15, 2021 in the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma because they were declared winter-storm disaster areas in February.

Key Takeaways

  • The 2020 Form 1040 is the standard tax return for use by individual taxpayers.
  • This year's version is the third change to the form in three years.
  • The 2020 Form 1040 has only three numbered schedules, down from six in previous years.
  • The tax-filing deadline has been extended to May 17, 2021