Tax Forms 101: Forms You Might Receive, Forms You Might File

When tax time rolls around, what tax forms might you receive and what might you need to file? There are hundreds of possible forms depending on your situation, but here are some of the most common ones.
5 min read

Let’s face it: The tax filing process ranks up there with root canal as things most of us dread. But a little organization and planning can help make filing those tax forms a bit more palatable.

Want to save yourself a bit of grief when the next tax season rolls around? Keep an eye out for those bits of paper, and be ready to file what needs to be filed. These questions can help you start:

  • What forms will I receive in the mail or from my employer?
  • What state and federal tax forms will I submit?
  • What forms and schedules will I need to include in my 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ?

What You May Receive

Around February, you should start receiving the tax forms you need to prepare and complete your federal and state tax returns. These forms should either come in the mail or be sent to you electronically, says Dean Hedeker, owner/principal of, and a veteran estate planning and tax attorney.

Tax Forms 101


Your journey could involve any of the hundreds of available tax forms, but these are among the more common pathways. Source: IRS Forms, Instructions & PublicationsFor illustrative purposes only. TD Ameritrade does not provide tax advice. We suggest you consult with a tax-planning professional with regard to your personal circumstances.

The forms you’ll receive in the mail include a W-2 if you’re a full-time employee, and a 1099 if you’re an independent contractor, receive interest payments from investments, or had a refund from a state investment. If you’re involved in a partnership, you’ll typically receive a K-1. Own a house and have a mortgage? Watch for the 1098 form, which will list the interest paid.

If you’re saving for retirement in a 401(k) or 403(b), the amount of money saved will show up on your W-2 and you won’t necessarily get a 401(k) or 403(b) tax form, Hedeker says. If you have an individual retirement account, whether a traditional IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, or SIMPLE IRA, you may receive a form 5498 each year. However, you don’t need to worry about the tax forms from an IRA, SEP IRA, or SIMPLE IRA because your IRA trustee or issuer is required to file this form with the IRS by May 31.

What You’ll Fill Out

For many filers, the 2018 tax year will mean changes to the way taxes are done because of the changes in the tax code, Hedeker says. Yes, you’ll still need to fill out a 1040 tax form, but chances are you’re less likely to need to fill out a Schedule A form. That’s because the standard deduction has doubled to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly.

Schedule A forms are for itemized deductions—property tax, charitable donations, and such. But with deductions for state and local taxes and mortgage interest capped at $10,000 and the standard deduction so high, fewer people will likely itemize.

“I see it in our practice,” says Hedeker. “We're running the returns both ways just to see what they're going to look like under the new law, and very few people will itemize.”

It’s possible more people will use the 1040EZ form, which is a one-page tax form for filers who can’t claim any credits or deductions and have a taxable income under $100,000. Form 1040A doesn’t allow itemizing, but you can claim certain tax credits and deduct student loan interest, IRA contributions, and a few other items. Like the 1040EZ, form 1040A is limited to people whose income is less than $100,000. Everyone else uses the standard 1040 form.

For people who have taxable interest and dividends greater than $1,500, they’ll need to fill out a Schedule B. This is also where you list if you have a foreign bank account, Hedeker says.

Small businesses and gig-economy people will still use Schedule C to list their profits, losses, and all expenses related to the business.

Schedule D is where you’ll list capital gains and losses from trading stocks, bonds, or other securities—and this is where the information from your 1099s comes in handy. Remember, if you lost up to $3,000, you might be able to deduct that from your taxes.

Need a little more time? Then you’ll want to use form 4868, which gets you an extension until October. But file it by the April 15 deadline so you’re not hit with fees for filing late. It’s also important to note that using form 4868 sometimes will automatically file an extension with your state authorities—but not all states do this, Hedeker says, so check.

An extension doesn’t buy you time if you owe money to the IRS, though. “You still need to estimate what you owe, and send it,” Hedeker says.

TD Ameritrade does not provide tax advice. We suggest you consult with a tax-planning professional with regard to your personal circumstances.

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