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What Is a Simple Tax Return? Comprehensive Guide

Triston Martin

Oct 19, 2023

Understanding taxes can often seem like a daunting task. However, the concept of a 'simple tax return,' as the term suggests, simplifies the process significantly. A simple tax return, also known as Form 1040EZ, is a shorter version of the regular 1040 tax form. It's designed for taxpayers with straightforward tax situations and includes only the essential sections required for filing federal income tax returns.

The Criteria for a Simple Tax Return

To qualify for a simple tax return, several criteria must be met:

  1. Single or Married Filing Jointly: These are the only filing statuses allowed for a simple tax return.
  2. Under 65: Both you and your spouse (if filing jointly) must be under the age of 65 as of the last day of the tax year.
  3. No Dependents: You cannot claim any dependents.
  4. Income Limitations: Your taxable income must be less than $100,000.
  5. Income Sources: Your income must come exclusively from wages, salaries, tips, unemployment compensation, or Alaska Permanent Fund dividends.

Each requirement is crucial for your eligibility for a simple tax return.

Benefits of Filing a Simple Tax Return

Filing a simple tax return comes with numerous benefits. The most apparent advantage is the ease and speed of completing your taxes. Due to its simplicity, there are fewer opportunities for errors, reducing the likelihood of triggering an IRS audit. Also, processing times for Form 1040EZ are usually quicker, meaning if you are due a tax refund, it may arrive faster. Let's delve deeper into these benefits.

Ease and Speed

The 1040EZ form is specifically designed to be straightforward and quick to fill out. With fewer lines and less complex tax-related language, it is easier for taxpayers to understand. This can significantly reduce the time spent on tax preparation, especially compared to the regular 1040 form.

Reduced Chance of Errors

With simplicity comes fewer opportunities for making errors. The streamlined nature of the 1040EZ form means there are fewer boxes to fill out, decreasing the risk of mistakes and subsequent IRS scrutiny.

Faster Refunds

As the IRS processes 1040EZ forms quicker, taxpayers who are due a refund can expect to receive it sooner. This advantage is particularly beneficial for those who rely on their tax return for major expenses or debt repayment.

How to File a Simple Tax Return

Filing a simple tax return is a straightforward process that can be completed in a few steps:

  1. Gather Your Documents: Start by gathering all the necessary tax documents. These may include your W-2 form from your employer, 1099 forms for any other income you may have received, and your social security numbers.
  2. Download Form 1040EZ: Next, download the IRS Form 1040EZ. You can find this form on the official IRS website.
  3. Fill Out Your Personal Information: Begin by filling out your personal information on the form. This includes your full name, social security number, and address. If you’re married and filing jointly, you will need to provide this information for your spouse as well.
  4. Report Your Income: On lines 1, 2, and 3, report your income. This includes wages, salaries, tips, taxable interest under $1,500, and unemployment compensation.
  5. Calculate Your Adjusted Gross Income: Add lines 1, 2, and 3 and write the total on line 4. On line 6, write your taxable income which is line 4 minus line 5.
  6. Calculate Your Tax: Use the tax table provided with the 1040EZ instructions to calculate your tax. Write this number on line 12.
  7. Calculate Your Refund or Amount You Owe: Finally, subtract line 10 from line 9 to find out if you owe money or are due a refund.
  8. Sign and Date Your Return: Once you've completed your tax return, don’t forget to sign and date it. If you’re filing jointly, both you and your spouse need to sign.
  9. File the Return: Finally, you can mail your tax return to the address listed in the 1040EZ instructions. If you prefer, you can also e-file your return for quicker processing.

Remember, even with a simple tax return, it's important to ensure that all information is accurate and complete. If you're uncertain, don't hesitate to seek advice from a tax professional.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Filing a Simple Tax Return

Although a simple tax return is straightforward to complete, there are certain mistakes that can cause delays or worse, penalties. Here's a list of common errors to avoid:

  • Failing to enter your Social Security Number correctly
  • Not including all sources of income
  • Claiming dependents when ineligible
  • Forgetting to sign or date the return
  • Entering inaccurate or incomplete information
  • Not reporting all types of taxable income such as gambling winnings
  • Claiming deductions and credits for which you are not eligible.

By being aware of these common pitfalls, you can help ensure a smooth filing process that avoids potential mistakes.


Understanding the concept of a simple tax return can greatly simplify the task of filing taxes. It's ideally suited for those with straightforward tax situations and provides a less complicated way to fulfill your tax obligations.

Ready to get started on your simple tax return? Use the information in this guide to ensure a smooth and error-free process. For more support, consider exploring additional resources or consulting with a tax professional.


Q: Which income tax return is the simplest to complete?

A: The simplest income tax return to complete is the 1040EZ, also known as the simple tax return. This form is designed for individuals with straightforward tax situations, such as single or married filing jointly, no dependents, and taxable income less than $100,000.

Q: What is a single tax return?

A: A single tax return is an IRS filing status chosen by a taxpayer who is unmarried and does not qualify for any other filing status. It's designed for individuals who are not married, have no dependents, and have income from wages, salaries, and tips.

Q: What is the most common type of tax return?

A: The most common type of tax return filed by individuals is the 1040 form. This form is used by U.S. taxpayers to file an annual income tax return. There are several versions of this form, including the 1040EZ (simple tax return), 1040A (short form), and the standard 1040 which is more detailed and used by taxpayers with more complex tax situations.

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