Understanding your Tax Return
Learn The Basics
Tax returns are the eyes of one's personal finance. Learning the basics can be very valuable as you plan for your financial future and for retirement.
The IRS 1040, the tax form most of us are most familiar with, is like a table of contents to the entire tax return. It has two pages, and the rest of the tax return is schedules and forms used to report the details and calculations for the information listed on the 1040 form.
Here is an abridged description.
Page 1 of the 1040 Form:
States personal information - Name, Social Security Number, dependents by name and SSN, filing status, and a few other items.
Lists all income from the various income categories - Wages, tips, dividends, interest, business income, social security, pensions, IRA distributions, farm income, tax refunds, alimony, unemployment compensation, capital gains, and other income. All income added together is the Gross Income.
The next part of Page 1 of the 1040 is Adjustments to Income - Alimony paid, IRA and personal pension contributions, health savings account contributions, educator expenses, student loan interest, tuition and fees, and a few more items are called Adjustments to Income. The Adjustments to Income total is subtracted from the Gross Income to arrive at Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). AGI is an important figure and is used to determine other aspects of your personal tax situation.
Page 2 of the 1040 Form:
Lists Deductions (Standard or Itemized) and personal exemptions which are subtracted from the AGI to arrive at Taxable Income, from which you enter a schedule or table to determine the tax owed.
There is then an Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) if applicable, which is an addition to the taxes owed, calculated elsewhere on the tax return.
Tax Credits are subtracted
Other Taxes such as Self Employment Tax are added to come up with your Total Tax.
From the Total Tax figure, taxes paid over the course of the year are subtracted.
Leaving - Amount Owed or Amount Due back to you.
All of this is supported by the Schedules and Forms.
Schedule A - Lists allowable itemized deductions (which can have limitations)
Schedule B - Interest and Dividend Income
Schedule C - Self Employed Income and Expenses (Net carried to Page 1 of the 1040 form)
Schedule D - Capital Gains and Losses (Net carried to Page 1 of the 1040 form)
Schedule E - Rental Property Income and Expenses (Net carried to Page 1 of the 1040 form)
Schedule F - Farm income and expenses (Net carried to Page 1 of the 1040 form)
There is, of course, more to it than I have written about here, but these are the basics.
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