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Qualifying to File a 1040EZ Income Tax Form vs. the 1040

written by: John Garger•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 1/21/2011

The 1040EZ is a shorter version of 1040 income tax form for personal income taxes. Qualifying to use this form requires a set of finely-defined conditions.Learn whether you can avoid the more complicated 1040 income tax form and file the simpler 1040EX form.

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    The 1040 Federal Tax form is the standard personal income tax form for individuals, married couples, and people filing under various other filing statuses. However, many U.S. tax payers fall into a category whose tax liability calculations are so simple that the situation warrants a smaller, more-compact, and easier-to-understand alternative to the complex 1040. The 1040EZ, as its name implies, is a much simpler version of the 1040. However, qualifying to file this form requires some strict rules and guidelines.

    The Internal Revenue Service's current progressive tax liability requires all citizens and some resident and non-resident aliens to file and pay income taxes using standard tax forms. The 1040EZ is really a sub-form under the 1040 that allows tax payers to use a simpler, user-friendly form in lieu of the much more cumbersome standard 1040. The 1040 is filled with information that conforms to current tax laws and allows tax payers to include such additions to income as interest, dividends, capital gains, deductions for dependents, and a variety of other income complexities.

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    Who Qualifies to File the 1040EZ?

    To qualify for the 1040 EZ, several criteria must all be met. The tax payer’s filing status must be either single or married filing jointly. Non-resident aliens must be married filing jointly to use 1040EZ. Tax payers must not be claiming any dependents and no claims to any adjustments to income are allowed. Only the Earned Income Credit (EIC) and the Recovery Rebate Credit may be claimed. Qualifiers for the 1040EZ must be under 65 (both spouses must be under 65 if filing jointly) and not blind at the end of the tax year. There is one aspect to age that is important for people near 65 years of age. Suppose that the tax year in question is 2009. People born on January 1st, 1945 are considered to be 65 years old at the end of that year.

    Tax payers filing the 1040EZ must not have gross income greater than $100,000 for the tax year. Income can only come from wages, salaries, tips, taxable scholarships or fellowship grants, unemployment compensation, or Alaska Permanent Fund dividends. Other sources of income preclude tax payers from using the 1040EZ.

    1040EZ filers must not have received any advance earned income credit payments and must not owe any household employment taxes on money paid to household employees. Filers must not be a debtor in a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy case from a few years previous (see the current 1040EZ instruction form for the date for that year’s taxes). Finally, filers must not be claiming the additional standard deduction for real estate taxes or disaster loses.

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    For those who qualify, the 1040EZ is a welcomed alternative to the cumbersome 1040 Federal Incomes Tax form. However, qualifying for the 1040EZ can be difficult with its many restrictions and regulations. For most tax payers, the best solution is to check the 1040EZ instructions and walk through the list of qualifications. If all are met, continue with the form. Otherwise, check the 1040 to make sure qualifications are met there. Usually they are met because the 1040 form is the standard form for all tax payers in normal situations.

    Always consult with a tax professional for questions about your tax liability.