The federal taxes you pay each year are based on the total amount of income you earned the previous year — that includes all the money you earn from a variety of different sources, such as wages, interest on bank accounts and profits earned from investments. The amount of money you owe — or are due back in the form of refunds — also varies based on expenses and tax credits that change your level of taxable income.
That’s a pretty simplified look into the basics of taxes. But simplicity is a good thing when it comes to handling filings that usually have a reputation for getting rather complicated — and the IRS has taken note. These days, the IRS has made doing taxes much easier for everyone involved by creating simplified tax forms that take a lot of the guesswork out of filing. Form 1040 is the tax form that most taxpayers use today. There have been many versions of it, such as 1040-EZ and 1040-SR — and there are some important things to know about it as you start preparing to file.
Form 1040-EZ was created to make filing income taxes easier for taxpayers. However, this form was short-lived: The IRS discontinued it in the 2018 tax season. The good news? The overall process of filing 1040 forms has become easier because there are now only two main forms to choose from. For the 2022 tax season, you’ll file either a Form 1040 or a Form 1040-SR. Form 1040-SR is designed specifically for people over age 65. It includes a larger font and spaces for forms of income that are more common for retirees. Everyone else uses the standard Form 1040.
You can still use Form 1040-EZ if you’re filing a late tax return for 2017 or before. For the 2018 tax season forward, though, Form 1040-EZ isn’t a valid tax form to use. If you’re using Form 1040-EZ for a valid tax year, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- This form is for simple filings. You won’t use this form if you need to adjust your gross income or make itemized deductions.
- You can only file for the standard deduction with Form 1040-EZ.
- Form 1040-EZ is only for married filing jointly and single filing statuses. If you need to file as a head of household or married person filing separately, you should use the 1040 or 1040-SR form.
- Whether single or married, anyone using a Form 1040-EZ must have less than $100,000 in taxable income to declare. If your total taxable income is higher than $100,000, you should use a different form.
If you’re not filing a 1040-EZ, the following important tax tips can help you with your Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR in the 2022 tax season.
Deductions for Donations
Giving money to charitable causes can save you money at tax time. The IRS allows you to claim a deduction for money donated to charitable organizations as long as that organization qualifies as a tax-exempt organization. There is an IRS search tool to verify that the organization you’ve donated to qualifies for this type of deduction.
This guidance allows for a deduction of up to $300 for taxpayers who file as a single and up to $600 for married taxpayers who file jointly. These limits are specific to taxpayers who don’t itemize deductions. If you do itemize your deductions, you can claim a deduction for the exact amount that you donated. An itemized deduction is often a better choice for people who donate more than the limits of the standard deduction.
Child Tax Credit
The child tax credit is one of many credits included on Form 1040. For the 2022 tax season, filing this credit may be a different process for many taxpayers. The IRS issued advanced payments of the Child Tax Credit throughout 2021 as a form of economic stimulus for households with children. If you received advanced payments, the IRS will have sent you a letter, called Letter 6419, in January 2022 to assist in your tax filing.
Parents and guardians who have already received this credit won’t be able to claim it again at tax time, but eligible households that opted out of receiving advanced payments can claim the entire tax credit on their Form 1040. Some who did receive advanced payments may still be able to claim a partial credit.
The advanced payments were based on the number of eligible dependents claimed on 2020 taxes. If your household gained a new member of the family during 2021, you can claim the amount you didn’t receive for that dependent throughout the year as a tax credit. Other households may need to pay some of the credit back. If your household now has fewer qualifying dependents than it had at the time you filed your 2020 taxes, your family may need to pay back a portion of the advance payment you received. This is a common scenario for families that had a child who aged out of eligibility for earning a child tax credit for their parents or guardians during 2021.
The economic impact payments (more commonly referred to as stimulus checks) that the government issued to most adults in response to the economic conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic will still have an impact on Form 1040 and Form 1040-SR filings for 2022. That’s because there was a distribution of a third stimulus check in 2021.
This third check was an advanced payment of a unique tax credit called the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit. The checks and automatic deposits were distributed between March and December of 2021. If you haven’t received your third stimulus check, you may be able to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your taxes.
Due to special economic provisions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 tax year has a few unique tax credits and rules. The IRS will send notices to give you a clear understanding of the advanced tax credits you may have already received. If your tax situation is especially complex this year, it may be a great time to meet with a tax professional or an accountant to go over your filing.