What Is a Tax Schedule?

Tax Schedules Explained

A person sits at her desk at home with her laptop in front of her as she looks at a tax form
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A tax schedule is a form used to report additional calculations or supporting detail for amounts reported on a tax return. Common tax schedules that you may be familiar with include Schedule A for reporting itemized deductions, and Schedule C, which is where sole proprietors report profit gained or losses from their business. 

Learn what tax schedules are, what they report and calculate, and how they are used by both taxpayers and the IRS.

Definition and Example of a Tax Schedule

A tax schedule is a tax form that is used to provide more information about amounts reported on a tax return. Each schedule is specific to a certain aspect of the filing process, and it is submitted in addition to a Form 1040 or 1040-SR.

For example, if a taxpayer itemizes their deductions on their individual tax return, they are required to submit Schedule A as part of their tax return.

  • Alternate definition: The term “schedule” is also used to describe tables that help taxpayers determine their income tax liability for the year.

How Does a Tax Schedule Work?

While some taxpayers have relatively simple tax returns that can be completed by just using the two-page Form 1040, taxpayers with more complicated tax returns will need to complete tax schedules as part of their tax return.  The IRS considers these tax schedules to be an essential part of the tax return.

Tax schedules typically have lines for taxpayers to input amounts indicated on the schedule.  For example, line one of Schedule A is where a taxpayer inputs the medical and dental expenses they paid during the year.

Other lines on tax schedules are used to input amounts from another part of the tax return. For example, line two of Schedule A is where a taxpayer inputs the amount of their adjusted gross income from line 11 of Form 1040 or 1040-SR.

Some lines on tax schedules are calculation lines where the schedule itself instructs the taxpayer to make some calculation and input the result on the line.  For example, line three of Schedule A instructs the taxpayer to multiply line two of Schedule A by 7.5% and input the result on line three.  This is because, with itemized deductions, taxpayers may only deduct the amount of their total medical and dental expenses paid during the year that exceed 7.5% of their adjusted gross income.

In some circumstances, the IRS may accept a substitute form instead of the official tax schedule. The IRS will do this so long as the information found on the substitute form follows the guidelines found in IRS Publication 1167—the rules for schedules and substitute forms.

Do I Need To Use Tax Schedules?

Tax schedules are used by both taxpayers and taxing authorities such as the IRS.

In the case of taxpayers, they use tax schedules to report additional information and amounts to support other parts of the tax return. Taxpayers may also use a tax schedule that was part of another tax return—such as a Schedule K-1 from an S corporation the taxpayer owns—to complete their own tax return.

Taxing authorities such as the IRS use tax schedules to review taxpayers’ tax returns.

Types of Tax Schedules

There are many tax schedules included in the various kinds of tax returns filed with the IRS.

Individual Tax Schedules

Individual tax schedules are attached to Form 1040 or 1040-SR. The table below shows common individual tax schedules and the purpose of each.

Schedule What Is Reported or Calculated
Schedule A Itemized deductions
Schedule B Interest and ordinary dividend income
Schedule C Profit or loss from business
Schedule D Capital gains and losses
Schedule E Supplemental income and loss
Schedule F Profit or loss from farming
Schedule H Household employment taxes
Schedule J Taxes on farming or fishing income
Schedule R Credit for the elderly or the disabled
Schedule SE Self-employment tax
Schedule 1 Additional income and adjustments to income
Schedule 2 Alternative minimum tax and other taxes
Schedule 3 Non-refundable credits (and some refundable credits)
Schedule 8812 Additional child tax credit

Business Tax Schedules

Businesses also file tax returns with the IRS, many of which have tax schedules as well.  The table below shows common business tax schedules and the purpose of each.

Schedule What Is Reported or Calculated
Schedule K-1 A partner’s, shareholder’s, or beneficiary’s share of a passthrough entity’s income, deductions, credits, and other tax items
Schedule L Balance sheet
Schedule M-1 Reconciliation of book income with taxable income
Schedule M-2 Reconciliation of a passthrough entity’s owners’ equity accounts, or the retained earnings of a C corporation
Schedule M-3 Reconciliation of book income with taxable income, specifically for large businesses

State tax returns use tax schedules as well. For example, the California Schedule CA (540) is used by California taxpayers to make adjustments to amounts reported on their federal tax return that take into account differences between federal tax law and California tax law.

How To File Tax Schedules

Tax schedules are filed as part of your tax return and can be downloaded from the IRS website.  From there, you can search the name of the schedule you want to find.

Tax returns, along with their supporting schedules, may be filed via paper mail at the address for your location indicated in the instructions for the tax return you are filing. They may also be electronically filed with a tax software program or through a tax professional.

While it’s typical for taxpayers to submit all required tax schedules along with their tax return, some tax schedules—such as Schedules C, D, and E for Form 1040 or 1040-SR—may be submitted to the IRS separately from the Form 1040 or 1040-SR.

Key Takeaways

  • A tax schedule is a tax form used to make additional calculations or report additional information on a tax return.
  • Tax schedules generally have several lines on which the taxpayer inputs amounts or other information.
  • Both individual and business tax returns use tax schedules.
  • Tax schedules are submitted as part of your tax return.