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Tax Forms 101: What Forms Do I Need to Submit My Tax Return

Carla Fried · April 28, 2020 · 4 min read

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Filing your tax return is a rite of passage that can seem daunting given all the rules and regulations. Deep breath. Using tax-prep software is a budget-friendly way to streamline the tax filing process that handles all the hard work, such as guiding you on all the forms you need to submit.

The tax prep software will ask you a bunch questions about your financial life that cover both the income you earned, and the tax deductions you may be eligible to claim and tells you which tax documents you should have received from employers, investment account providers, and the firms processing any loans.

The program will walk you through inputting all the right data and then in the background will do all the necessary numbers crunching to spit out a finished tax return that includes all the supporting tax forms to file your tax return.

For instance, if you contributed to a Health Savings Account (HSA) last year you’ll want to file IRS Tax Form 8889, which enables you to claim contributions you made to your HSA during the year as a tax deduction. It’s also the form where you report any distributions (withdrawals) you made from your HSA.

The deadline for filing your federal tax return is typically April 15th of the following year. Due to the coronavirus crisis, the deadline to file 2019 tax-year returns has been extended to July 15, 2020. (Lively’s Covid-19 Guide provides updates on regulatory changes impacting HSAs.)

Here are common tax forms you will use to complete your taxes, and the forms that you will submit when you file your taxes:

Form 1040

This is the big kahuna tax form that constitutes your federal tax-return. All other forms are included as supporting documents for your 1040. There is a short-form called 1040-EZ, but if you intend to claim tax breaks such as the HSA contribution income deduction, you will need to file the standard 1040 form.

Income documents to help complete your 1040:

  • Form W-2: Provided by an employer if you are on staff. This reports what your employer told the IRS you received in income during the year, and the taxes you paid.

  • Form 1099-MISC: If you are self-employed, this document is sent to you by your clients reporting the income they paid you. When preparing your return, you will enter income from each client separately.

  • Form 1099-G: If you received unemployment payments or a state-tax refund, it will be reported on this form.

  • 1099-DIV or 1099-INT: If you have a regular taxable investment account or savings account, you may receive either of these forms. The 1099-DIV reports any taxable dividend income or capital gains income on your account. If you earned or paid interest during the year you will receive a 1099-INT for each account.

Forms you need to claim valuable income tax deductions on your 1040:

  • Form 1098-E. If you made any payments on federal student loans, you may be eligible to deduct a portion of the interest you paid. Your student-loan servicer should send you a Form 1098-E if your interest payments were at least $600. If you paid any college tuition or related fees during the year you may be eligible for tax credits based on Form 1098-T your school will provide.

  • Form 8889. This form documents your contributions to an HSA, which are tax deductible.

  • Form 5498. If you contributed to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) the provider will file this form with the IRS and send you a copy. If you contributed to a Traditional IRA or a SEP-IRA (for self-employed workers) you may be able to claim a tax deduction.

Carla Fried

Carla Fried

Carla specializes in service journalism for news outlets including The New York Times, Money magazine, and CNBC.com. For the past 15 years she has writen for traditional news outlets, ghostwriting books and articles for clients, creating content for major financial service firms, and editing investment newsletters and white papers.

Her work appears in The New York Times, Money Magazine, Barron's and Consumer Reports.

piggy bank on pink background

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Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.

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