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IRS tax forms are used for taxpayers and tax-exempt organizations to report financial information to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States. They are used to report income, calculate taxes to be paid to the federal government of the United States, and disclose other information as required by the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). There are over 800 various forms and schedules. The best-known of these is Form 1040 used by individuals.
Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, is one of three forms (1040 [the "Long Form"], 1040A [the "Short Form"] and 1040EZ - see below for explanations of each) used for personal (individual) federal income tax returns filed with the IRS. The first Form 1040 was published for use for the tax years 1913, 1914, and 1915. For 1916, Form 1040 was converted to an annual form (i.e., updated each year with the new tax year printed on the form). Initially, the IRS mailed tax booklets (Form 1040, instructions, and most common attachments) to all households. As alternative delivery methods (CPA/Attorneys, Internet forms) increased in popularity, the IRS sent fewer packets via mail. In 2009 this practice was discontinued.
Income tax returns for individual calendar year taxpayers are due by April 15 of the next year, except when April 15 falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or a legal holiday. In those circumstances, the returns are due on the next business day. An automatic extension until Oct. 15 to file Form 1040 can be obtained by filing Form 4868.
Form 1040 consists of two full pages not counting attachments. The first page collects information about the taxpayer(s), dependents, income items, and adjustments to income. The second page calculates the allowable deductions and credits, tax due given the income figure, and applies funds already withheld from wages or estimated payments made towards the tax liability. At the top of the first page is the Presidential election campaign fund checkoff, which allows you to designate that the federal government give $3 of the tax it receives to the Presidential election campaign fund.
Form 1040 has 11 attachments, called "schedules", which may need to be filed depending on the taxpayer. For 2009 and 2010 there is an additional form, Schedule M, due to the "Making Work Pay" provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ("the stimulus"):
In most situations, other Internal Revenue Service or Social Security Administration forms such as Form W-2 must be attached to the Form 1040, in addition to the Form 1040 schedules. There are over 100 other, specialized forms that may need to be completed along with Schedules and the Form 1040.
Over the years, other "Short Forms" were used for short periods of time. For example, in the 1960s, they used an IBM Card on which a few lines could be written which would then be transcribed onto another card. The other card looked the same but had holes in it which a computer or "unit record" machine could read. As with the other forms, there was always a place for a signature.
The Form 1040A ("short form"), U.S. individual income tax return, is a shorter version of the Form 1040. Use of Form 1040A is limited to taxpayers with taxable income below $100,000 who take the standard deduction instead of itemizing deductions; it was originally one page until the 1982 edition, when it expanded to two pages.
The Form 1040EZ ("easy form"), Income Tax Return for Single and Joint Filers With No Dependents, is the simplest, six-section Federal income tax return, introduced in 1982. Its use is limited to taxpayers with taxable income below $100,000 (as of tax year 2011[update]) who take the standard deduction instead of itemizing deductions and have no dependents.
A provision of a 2006 Pension Bill placed a filing mandate on smaller nonprofits (Under $25,000 in annual receipts) who faced automatic revocation of their exempt status if they did not comply. In response to over 320,000 organizations failing to meet the mandate, IRS issued one time relief under IR 2010-87 through Oct 15, 2010. Those organizations may file form 990N List of charities at risk of revocation and eligible for relief under IR 2010-87.
The Form 990 provides the public with financial information about a nonprofit organization, and is often the only source of such information. It is also used by government agencies to prevent organizations from abusing their tax-exempt status. In June 2007, the IRS released a new Form 990 that requires significant disclosures on corporate governance and boards of directors. These new disclosures are required for all nonprofit filers for the 2009 tax year, with more significant reporting requirements for nonprofits with over $1 million in revenues or $2.5 million in assets. In addition, certain nonprofits have more comprehensive reporting requirements, such as hospitals and other health care organizations (Schedule H). The Form 990 may be filed with the IRS by mail or electronically with an Authorized IRS e-file Provider.
The Form 990 disclosures do not require but strongly encourage nonprofit boards to adopt a variety of board policies regarding governance practices. These suggestions go beyond Sarbanes-Oxley requirements for nonprofits to adopt whistleblower and document retention policies. The IRS has indicated they will use the Form 990 as an enforcement tool, particularly regarding executive compensation. For example, nonprofits that adopt specific procedures regarding executive compensation are offered "safe harbor" from excessive compensation rules under section 4958 of the Internal Revenue Code and Treasury Regulation section 53.4958-6.
Public Inspection IRC 6104(d) regulations state that an organization must provide copies of its three most recent Forms 990 to anyone who requests them, whether in person, by mail, fax, or e-mail. Additionally, requests may be made via the IRS using Form 4506-A, and PDF copies can often be found online as noted below.
In addition to Form 990, tax-exempt organizations are also subject to a variety of disclosure and compliance requirements through various schedules which are attached to Form 990 (and, in some cases, 990-EZ or 990-PF). Filing of schedules by organizations supplements, enhances, and further clarifies disclosures and compliance reporting made in Form 990. Often, filing of schedules is mandatory, but there are situations where organizations not otherwise subject to filing requirements may consider completing certain schedules despite not being technically obligated to. The current list of possible schedule filings are:
The Form 5500, Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan, was developed jointly by the IRS, United States Department of Labor, and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to satisfy filing requirements both under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The Form 5500 is an important compliance, research, and disclosure tool intended to assure that employee benefit plans are properly managed and to provide participants, beneficiaries, and regulators with sufficient information to protect their rights. Starting in 2009, all Forms 5500 must be filed electronically on the website of the Department of Labor.
The Form 1040NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return, and its "easy" version Form 1040NR-EZ, U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens With No Dependents, are used by nonresident aliens who have U.S. source income and therefore have to file a U.S. tax return. Joint returns are not permitted, so that husband and wife must each file a separate return. The Form 1040NR-EZ can be used under conditions similar to those for the 1040EZ form.
The Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Tax Return, is used to make corrections to Form 1040, Form 1040A, and Form 1040EZ tax returns that have been previously filed. Generally for a tax refund, this form must be filed within 3 years after the date that the original version was filed, or within 2 years after the date that the tax was paid, whichever is later. Forms 1040X are processed manually and therefore take longer than regular returns. For years prior to 2010, Form 1040X had three columns: for the amounts from the original version, for the net increase or decrease for each line being changed, and for the corrected amounts. For 2010, the form was condensed with a single column for the corrected amounts. Due to confusion amongst taxpayers on how to complete the single-column form, the IRS revised the Form 1040X again for 2011 by returning to the original three-column format.
Self-employed individuals and others who do not have enough income taxes withheld, might need to file Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, each quarter to make estimated installments of annual tax liability (pay-as-you-go tax).
Informational returns are prepared by third parties (employers, banks, financial institutions, etc.) and report information to both the IRS and taxpayers to help them complete their own tax returns. The forms report the amounts only on a calendar year (January 1 through December 31) basis, regardless of the fiscal year used by the payer or payee for other federal tax purposes. Taxpayers are usually not required to attach informational returns to their own federal income tax returns unless the form shows federal income tax withheld. Many businesses and organizations must file thousands of information returns per year.
The issuance or non-issuance of an informational return is not determinative of the tax treatment required of the payee. For example, some income reported on Form 1099 might be nontaxable and some taxable income might not be reported at all. Each payee-taxpayer is legally responsible for reporting the correct amount of total income on his or her own federal income tax return regardless of whether an informational return was filed or received.
Form 1099 series is used to report various types of income other than wages, salaries, and tips (for which Form W-2 is used instead). Examples of reportable transactions are amounts paid to a non-corporate independent contractor for services (in IRS terminology, such payments are nonemployee compensation). The ubiquity of the form has also led to use of the phrase "1099" to refer to the independent contractors themselves. In 2011 the requirement has been extended by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 to payments made by persons who receive income from rental property.
Each payer must complete a Form 1099 for each covered transaction. Four copies are made: one for the payer, one for the payee, one for the IRS, and one for the State Tax Department, if required. Payers who file 250 or more Form 1099 reports must file all of them electronically with the IRS. If the fewer than 250 requirement is met, and paper copies are filed, the IRS also requires the payer to submit a copy of Form 1096, which is a summary of information forms being sent to the IRS. The returns must be filed with the IRS by the end of February immediately following the year for which the income items or other proceeds are paid. Copies of the returns must be sent to payees, however, by the end of January. The law provides various dollar amounts under which no Form 1099 reporting requirement is imposed. For some Form 1099s, for example, no filing is required for payees who receive less than $600 from the payer during the applicable year.
Variants for Form 1099
As of 2011[update], several versions of Form 1099 are used, depending on the nature of the income transaction:
The Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, is used to report wages paid to employees and the taxes withheld from them. Employers must complete a Form W-2 for each employee to whom they pay a salary, wage, or other compensation as part of the employment relationship. An employer must mail out the Form W-2 to employees on or before January 31. This deadline gives these taxpayers about 2 months to prepare their returns before the April 15 income tax due date. The form is also used to report FICA taxes to the Social Security Administration. The Form W-2, along with Form W-3, generally must be filed by the employer with the Social Security Administration by the end of February. Relevant amounts on Form W-2 are reported by the Social Security Administration to the Internal Revenue Service. In territories, the W-2 is issued with a two letter code indicating which territory, such as W-2GU for Guam. If corrections are made, it can be done on a W-2c.
The Form W-2G, Gambling Winnings, is used to report Gambling Winnings (direct wager only) to the IRS. It is completed when the winnings are $600.00 or more in any one session and 300 times the buy-in or wager.
The Form W-3 is a summary page of all W-2 forms issued by the employer. It is only used on paper filing of W-2 information. Like the W-2, the W-3c allows for corrections. W-3SS is used for the W-2 territorial returns.
The Form W-4 is used by employers to determine the amount of tax withholding to deduct from employees' wages. The form is not mailed to the IRS but retained by the employer. Tax withholdings depend on employee's personal situation and ideally should be equal to the annual tax due on the Form 1040. When filling out a Form W-4 an employee calculates the number of Form W-4 allowances to claim based on his or her expected tax filing situation for the year. The amount of money withheld as federal income tax is reduced for each Form W-4 allowance taken. No interest is paid on over-withholding, but penalties might be imposed for under-withholding. Alternatively, or in addition, the employee can send quarterly estimated tax payments directly to the IRS (Form 1040-ES). Quarterly estimates may be required if the employee has additional income (e.g. investments or self-employment income) not subject to withholding or insufficiently withheld. There are specialized versions of this form for other types of payment (W-4P for pensions as an example).
The Form W-7 and related documents are the application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). This number is used for people in the US legally, but unable to qualify for social security numbers, that have to file tax returns.
The Form W-8BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding, is used by foreign persons (including corporations) to certify their non-U.S. status. The form establishes that one is a non-resident alien or foreign corporation, to avoid or reduce tax withholding from U.S. source income, such as rents from U.S. property, interest on U.S. bank deposits or dividends paid by U.S. corporations. The form is not used for U.S. wages and salaries earned by non-resident aliens (in which case Form W-4 is used), or for U.S. freelance (dependent personal services) income (in which case Form 8233 is used). The form requires the foreign person to provide a U.S. Taxpayer Identification Number unless the U.S. income is dividends or interest from actively traded or similar investments. Other W-forms handle other international issues. The IRS released a new version of W-8BEN in February 2014 that required corporations to sign an W-8BEN-E form instead, which was still in draft status. For foreign corporations it was unclear, whether they were required to sign the previous W-8BEN form (established in 2006) or to sign the draft version of W-8BEN-E.
The Form W-9, Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification, serves two purposes. First, it is used by third parties to collect identifying information to help file information returns with the IRS. It requests the name, address, and taxpayer identification information of a taxpayer (in the form of a Social Security Number or Employer Identification Number). The form is never actually sent to the IRS, but is maintained by the person who files the information return for verification purposes. The information on the Form W-9 and the payment made are reported on a Form 1099. The second purpose is to help the payee avoid backup withholding. The payer must collect withholding taxes on certain reportable payments for the IRS. However, if the payee certifies on the W-9 they are not subject to backup withholding they generally receive the full payment due them from the payer. This is similar to the withholding exemptions certifications found on Form W-4 for employees.
The Form W-10, Dependent care provider identification, is a way for day care service providers to provide information to the individual so they can take credits for care of their children. This form is frequently replaced with a freeform statement indicating the Tax ID of the day care or individual and how much is paid.
The Form W-11, Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act Employee Affidavit, is to certify that a new employee was previously unemployed in order to qualify for a tax credit in accordance with the HIRE act.
The form W-12 is a form for tax preparation professionals to apply for their ID Number. It is being phased out in favor of an electronic application.
In the United States, tax records are not publicly available, with the exception of Forms 990 and 1023 for nonprofit organizations which are generally open for public inspection. Selected tax data is released as economic data for research. In other countries such as Norway and Finland, tax records are public information. Tax filings in the U.S. were not private when federal income taxation began in 1861, but controversy led to Congress prohibiting any examination of tax records by 1894. Congress allowed public examination of individual and corporate tax payments only in 1923, but the disclosure was eliminated by 1924. In 1934 the measure was briefly considered again. As of 2010, various experts have advocated that the income and tax payments be released for individuals and corporations to shed further light on tax efficiency and spur reform. These experts have suggested only releasing information that cannot be used for identity theft to address privacy concerns.
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