A Simple Tax Return: Filing with IRS Form 1040

Simplify tax filing with IRS Form 1040. Our guide helps you file a simple tax return easily. Streamline your taxes today for a hassle-free experience!

Dr. Imelda King, Steven McKinley

6/4/20235 min read

man in suit and tie filing taxes at a desk
man in suit and tie filing taxes at a desk

A Simple Tax Return: Filing with IRS Form 1040

In the United States, individuals are required to file their taxes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to fulfill their tax obligations. A simple tax return refers to the process of filing taxes using IRS Form 1040 only, without additional forms or schedules. This article aims to guide you through the process of filing a simple tax return and provide valuable insights into its benefits and considerations.


Filing taxes can seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be overly complicated. Many individuals qualify for a simple tax return, which streamlines the process and reduces the amount of paperwork involved. Understanding the basics of filing a simple tax return can help you fulfill your tax obligations efficiently and accurately.

Understanding IRS Form 1040

IRS Form 1040, also known as the U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, is the primary form used by individuals to report their income, deductions, and tax liability to the IRS. It serves as the foundation for filing a simple tax return. Form 1040 consists of various sections and asks for information such as personal details, income sources, deductions, and credits.

Who Can File a Simple Tax Return?

A simple tax return is suitable for individuals with uncomplicated financial situations. Generally, those who have the following characteristics can file a simple tax return:

  1. Single or married filing jointly

  2. Income primarily from wages, salaries, tips, or unemployment compensation

  3. No significant investments or self-employment income

  4. No dependents or eligible dependents

  5. No itemized deductions or complex tax credits

If your financial situation aligns with these criteria, filing a simple tax return can save you time and effort.

Benefits of Filing a Simple Tax Return

Filing a simple tax return offers several advantages:

  1. Simplicity: By using IRS Form 1040 only, you can simplify the tax filing process and avoid dealing with additional forms and schedules that may not be relevant to your situation.

  2. Time-saving: A simple tax return requires less time to complete, as you don't have to gather extensive documentation or calculate complex deductions and credits.

  3. Cost-effective: Filing a simple tax return reduces the need for professional assistance, which can save you money on tax preparation fees.

  4. Less room for errors: With fewer complexities, a simple tax return minimizes the chances of making mistakes, reducing the risk of triggering an IRS audit or penalties.

Steps to File a Simple Tax Return

Filing a simple tax return involves several straightforward steps:

Gather your documents

Before you begin, ensure you have the necessary documents readily available. These may include:

  • W-2 forms from your employer(s)

  • 1099 forms for any additional income, such as freelance work or interest earned

  • Records of deductible expenses, if applicable

Complete Form 1040

Start by entering your personal information, such as your name, address, and Social Security number, on Form 1040. Then, provide details about your income, including wages, salaries, and other sources. Be sure to accurately report your income to avoid potential issues with the IRS.

Calculate your tax liability

Based on the information provided on Form 1040, you can calculate your tax liability using the tax tables provided by the IRS. These tables consider your income and filing status to determine the amount of tax you owe.

Sign and submit your return

Once you have completed Form 1040 and calculated your tax liability, sign the return and submit it to the IRS. Depending on your preference, you can file electronically or mail a printed copy of your return.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

While filing a simple tax return may seem straightforward, it's crucial to avoid common mistakes that could impact the accuracy and legality of your return. Some mistakes to watch out for include:

  • Mathematical errors: Double-check all calculations to ensure accuracy and prevent errors that might trigger an audit or delay your refund.

  • Incorrect filing status: Choose the correct filing status that reflects your situation accurately, such as single, married filing jointly, or head of household.

  • Missing or incorrect Social Security numbers: Ensure that you provide the correct Social Security numbers for yourself, your spouse, and any dependents you may have.

  • Forgetting to sign and date the return: Your tax return is not valid unless you sign and date it. Failure to do so can lead to processing delays or rejection.

Additional Considerations for Simple Tax Returns

While a simple tax return doesn't involve complex deductions or credits, it's important to be aware of a few additional considerations:

Tax deductions and credits

Even with a simple tax return, you may still be eligible for certain deductions and credits. For example, if you made contributions to a traditional IRA or have student loan interest, you may be able to claim deductions that can reduce your taxable income. Additionally, tax credits such as the Child Tax Credit or the Earned Income Tax Credit can provide valuable tax savings.

State tax returns

While this article focuses on federal tax returns using IRS Form 1040, it's important to remember that most individuals also need to file state tax returns. State tax requirements vary, so it's crucial to understand the specific rules and forms for your state.

If you're looking for a tool to simplify your tax filing process, consider using TurboTax software, which we've reviewed in detail on our site

Using Tax Software for Simple Returns

Filing a simple tax return can be made even more convenient by utilizing tax software. Many reputable tax software providers offer user-friendly platforms that guide you through the process, ensure accuracy, and maximize your tax deductions. With the assistance of tax software, you can easily navigate Form 1040 and simplify the filing process.


Filing a simple tax return using IRS Form 1040 is an efficient and streamlined way to fulfill your tax obligations if you have a straightforward financial situation. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can confidently complete your tax return, reduce the risk of errors, and potentially save time and money. Remember to consider any additional tax requirements based on your state of residence and explore the benefits of using tax software to further simplify the process.


  1. Can I file a simple tax return if I have self-employment income?

    • No, self-employment income typically requires additional forms and schedules, making a simple tax return unsuitable. Consider consulting a tax professional for guidance.

  2. Do I need to hire a professional tax preparer for a simple tax return?

    • While it's not necessary for a simple tax return, some individuals prefer the expertise and peace of mind that comes with hiring a tax professional. It's a personal choice based on your comfort level and complexity of your financial situation.

  3. What happens if I make a mistake on my simple tax return?

    • If you discover a mistake on your already filed simple tax return, you can file an amended return using Form 1040X. Correcting errors promptly is important to avoid potential penalties or issues with the IRS.

  4. Can I file a simple tax return if I have dependents?

    • Generally, a simple tax return is not applicable if you have dependents. You may need to use additional forms, such as Schedule 8812 for the Child Tax Credit, to account for dependents and associated tax benefits.

  5. Is it possible to file a simple tax return if I own rental properties?

    • Owning rental properties introduces complexities to your tax situation, making a simple tax return inadequate. It's advisable to consult a tax professional who can guide you through the appropriate forms and deductions related to rental properties.