How to Find and File Your Federal Tax Forms

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How to Find and File Your Federal Tax Forms

If bureaucracies are brilliant at anything, it’s making paperwork, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reigns supreme when it comes to tax forms. The majority of the documentation required to file your federal tax return may be completed and sent electronically, but you will need to get certain papers, either on paper or online, to finish the task. We’ll go through where to discover and get the paperwork you need, how often the IRS changes its forms, and how to file your tax forms online.

The U.S. tax season for the 2021 tax year started on Monday, January 24, 2022, when the IRS began receiving and processing 2021 returns.

Key Takeaways

  • On the IRS website, there are four methods to find tax forms.
  • Downloading and saving an online form to your hard disk is the easiest method to prevent losing your entries if your browser fails or you shut it accidently.
  • Learn how to protect yourself from identity theft if you submit your taxes online, as most people do these days.
  • You may be able to get free software to assist you in filling out the forms and filing them online.
  • Filing early lowers the likelihood of identity theft.
  • Employers, banking institutions, and others have deadlines for mailing or making your tax forms accessible online.

How to Find Tax Forms on the IRS Website

It is simple to locate tax forms on the IRS website. There are four approaches you may take:

Option 1

  1. Go to IRS.gov.
  2. Select a form to download by hovering your mouse over “Forms and Instructions” in the horizontal menu bar.

Option 2

  1. Go to IRS.gov.
  2. To view the form, type its name into the search field on the right side of the horizontal menu bar.

Option 3

  1. Open any search engine.
  2. Enter the name of the form you’re searching for in the search field, followed by “site:irs.gov.” If you’re searching for form 1040, for example, your search phrase would be “2021 form 1040 site:irs.gov.”

Any of these alternatives will guarantee that you get a valid tax form immediately from the IRS website. You may either fill out the required tax paperwork on your own or utilize tax preparation software.

Note that tax preparation software already includes all of the forms you need, so don’t bother downloading them in advance if you’re using one of them.

The 2021 tax returns will be due on April 18, 2022, which is later owing to the District of Columbia’s Emancipation Day holiday on April 15th. Due to the Patriots’ Day holiday in both states, the deadline to file in Maine and Massachusetts is April 19, 2022.

How Often the IRS Changes Its Tax Forms

Many of the IRS’s forms must be updated yearly. Even if the form’s content remains same, it must include the current year so taxpayers can be certain they’re completing the proper paperwork and computing the exact amount of tax payable. Because of new rules or instructions, updated addresses or phone numbers, or the need to make a correction or clarification, the IRS changes its forms.

New legislation, such as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, is a major driver of tax form revisions. The IRS was compelled to prepare new 1040 forms and schedules as a result of this law. The bill altered marginal tax rates, standard deductions, itemized deductions, and other provisions. The Affordable Care Act, another key piece of legislation, required revisions to tax forms due to the subsidies, fines, and additional taxes established by the statute.

Completing Online Tax Forms

For the 2018 tax year, the government updated Form 1040 and the additional forms that many people complete with it. Instead of forms 1040, 1040-A, and 1040-EZ, the most common form is Form 1040, with an additional form for seniors: Form 1040-SR.

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Taxpayers that claim the standard deduction and submit simple returns are not required to complete any additional forms.

The IRS offers a fillable PDF of Form 1040 as well as certain standard schedules and documents online. You can put in your information and then print the form, but it’s a better idea to download it first and then save it to your hard drive as you fill it out so you don’t lose your entries if your browser crashes or you shut it unintentionally. After you’ve completed and printed the form, sign it, attach copies of any needed papers (the W-2 is the most typical), and send it in.

This is a simple and affordable procedure; you will need to pay for mail, ideally a manner that can be tracked to ensure you sent your return on time. When you submit your paper return by mail, the IRS promises it will complete it within six to eight weeks. If you are owed a refund, it normally takes around three weeks to get it, however direct deposit may allow you to receive it sooner.

Individuals who need to report information that is not contained on Form 1040 (or 1040-SR) must submit extra schedules. One or more of the following may be included:

See “Schedules for Form 1040 and Form 1040-SR” for a comprehensive list. You may complete these schedules in the same way as you would Form 1040.

Filing Your Tax Forms Electronically

The 15th of April used to be the worst day of the year to go to the post office. As everyone waited in line to get the envelopes carrying their tax forms postmarked—proof that they were sent on time—mind-numbing lineups developed. Some consumers used special labels and paid a small fee to get a tracking number and evidence of arrival.

Today, the IRS and tax software providers have made electronic filing, sometimes known as “e-file,” an appealing option. It never requires you to leave your house.

Is Filing Electronically Safe?

The convenience of electronic filing is evident, but is it secure? Your tax return includes some of the most sensitive information about you: where you reside, how much you make, how many dependents you have, your Social Security number, how much you won or lost from selling assets.

Can you rely on tax software providers and the government to use best-in-class security to secure your data both during transmission and storage? If you utilize online tax software, your data is also stored on the cloud, adding another point of failure.

As a result, some users choose to buy downloading software so that their data is solely saved on their own computer. As a result, they are less susceptible to one less data breach potential.

In this day and age of data breaches and identity theft, security and privacy concerns must be addressed. The table below illustrates the security features offered by online tax services as of January 2022 for the 2021 tax season. It should be noted that the absence of a feature in the table does not necessarily imply that the software provider lacks it; rather, the information was not accessible on the company’s data security website. Furthermore, although each service defines its encryption procedures differently, they all seem to use adequate methods.

Security and Fraud Prevention Features in Popular Tax Preparation Software, January 2022
Software BrandMultifactor AuthenticationTouch IDEncryptionLogin and Device ActivityAccount Change Email NotificationsPhysical Data SecurityExternal Audits and Risk Assessments
TurboTaxyesyesSSL encryption that exceeds IRS standardsyesyesnot advertisednot advertised
H&R Blockyesnot advertiseddata is bank-level encrypted when transferred from your computer to H&R Block and from H&R Block to the IRSnot advertisednot advertiseddata centers, networks, and servers are physically securedyes
TaxActyesnot advertisedindustry-standard SSL protocolyesnot advertisednot advertisednot advertised

Sources: Turbo Tax, H&R Block, and TaxAct.

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Even with industry-best security procedures, H&R Block’s privacy policy states that “no means of communication over the internet, or technique of electronic storage, is 100% safe.” As a result, we cannot guarantee the perfect security of [your tax data].”

Electronic Pitfalls to Avoid

If you do submit your tax forms online, don’t do so on a public computer and don’t send your return using public WiFi.

Use a personal computer with antivirus and firewall software, as well as a private, password-protected WiFi network, such as your home or business network. Don’t send your tax returns over an insecure network at a coffee shop, aircraft, or library.

Paper Returns Have Vulnerabilities, Too

It’s also crucial to evaluate how secure it is to send your tax return. Paper returns are easily misplaced or stolen. They’re also more prone to mistakes. Unfortunately, no matter how you file your return, your personal information is at risk.

Certain forms, no matter how they are completed, cannot be e-filed. Most individuals, however, will not be required to complete these documents. The most typical reason for submitting a paper return is if you need to file an updated return, however tax years 2019 and 2020 may be completed online under certain situations.

Are there any additional disadvantages of completing your tax forms online, apart from the potential security threats, which may be countered by benefits such as ease and obtaining your return faster?

Tax-Form Filing Fees

If your income in 2021 was $73,000 or less, you may submit your federal tax return for free. Many of the major publishers’ tax software, including two Spanish-language packages, is made accessible by the IRS. To submit your state return, you may be required to pay a modest cost.

If you earn more than that, the tax software you use will charge you to complete and submit your state and federal taxes. E-filing your tax return is free of charge from the IRS and state governments. The tax preparation firm charges the cost.

Similarly, if you engage a professional tax preparer, they may pass on any e-file costs assessed by the professional tax software utilized to you.

You may be able to file online if you utilize the IRS’s Free File fillable forms, or you may have to print and send your return. It depends on the forms you’re submitting, the supporting information you’re needed to provide, and the documents you’re required to send together with your forms.

The major expense connected with preparing your tax returns (apart from your time) will be the charge to utilize the preparation software, not the e-filing itself, regardless of the method you choose.

Should You File Early?

Many Americans put off completing and filing their taxes until the April 15 deadline. If procrastination bothers you, or if you’re anticipating a refund and want it as soon as possible, you may submit your 2021 return as early as Jan. 24, 2022.

Another incentive to file early is to decrease the possibility of someone stealing your identity and using your Social Security Number to submit a bogus return and claim a phony refund.

Where to Get Copies of Tax Forms Due to You

You’ll need tax paperwork from the banking institutions with whom you have accounts before you can file. They should come in the mail or with instructions on how to access them online. These papers show how much interest you’ve received on high-yield savings accounts and certificates of deposit, how much money you’ve gained or lost from selling assets, and how much money you’ve withdrawn out of retirement funds.

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You’ll also need tax documents that show your earned income as well as the taxes you’ve previously paid. The most prevalent is Form W-2, which workers get from their employers. Freelancers and independent contractors should get Form 1099-MISC from any customer who pays them $600 or more (this is referred to as “non-employee remuneration” by the IRS). Other sorts of income, such as prize money, may also result in a 1099-MISC.

You may also obtain documentation of any interest paid on a student loan or mortgage. Depending on your circumstances, this interest may be tax-deductible.

Financial institutions, companies, and customers have traditionally sent printed versions of these papers to you. You may have to obtain them yourself now by signing into your account online. This service is sometimes optional, but other times it is the only method to get the forms you want.

Deadlines for Making Tax Forms Available to You

The IRS has set deadlines for employers and financial institutions to send or make these documents accessible online. Here are the dates for receiving some of the most popular forms individuals need to complete their 2021 tax returns.

  • W-2, Wage and Tax Statement – 1st of February
  • Mortgage Interest Statement – February 1st, 1098
  • Student Loan Interest Statement 1098-E – Feb. 1
  • Tuition Statement 1098-T – Feb. 1
  • 1099-B, Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions – February 1
  • 1099-C, Debt Cancellation – Feb. 1
  • 1099-G, Certain Government Payments (such as state tax refunds and unemployment benefits) – February 1
  • Dividends & Distributions – 1099-DIV – Feb. 1
  • 1099-INT, Interest Income – 1st of February
  • 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income – 1st of February
  • 1099-R, Pension, Annuity, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, and Other Distributions – Feb. 1
  • 1099-S, Real Estate Transaction Proceeds – Feb. 1
  • Schedule K-1, Partner’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, and Other Tax Documents – March 15

What to Do About Missing Tax Forms

If you do not get one or more of the required forms, you must still declare the information on your tax return. Here’s how to deal with the problem.

  1. Look through your inbox. You may have gotten an email informing you that a form in your online account was ready. You may have received an email with a link to a secure gateway where you can recover your form. Or maybe you lost an envelope you received in the mail.
  2. Access your online account. Check to see whether the form is accessible there. Most sites clearly offer instructions about where to get your tax forms after login into your account from January to April. Major financial organizations often make banking, investing, and loan interest forms accessible online.
  3. Please contact the issuer. Inquire through email or phone with your banking institution, customer, or other issuer about the status of your missing paperwork and the method utilized to deliver it to you. Request that a new copy be sent to you.
  4. Request an extension. If you don’t have all of the necessary paperwork by April 15, you may request for an extension. If you owe taxes, however, you must still pay what you owe by April 15 to avoid penalties, so make your best estimate. The extension only applies to your tax paperwork—form 1040 and any additional forms you must submit.

If you submit a paper return by mail, you must include copies of any paperwork issued by issuers that reflect taxes withheld. You won’t have to if you file electronically.

The Bottom Line

Obtaining, arranging, and completing all of the papers required to file your tax return may be agonizing for all but the most zealous super-doers. However, unless you are exempt from filing a tax return, you must do so if you do not want to face penalties for failing to file. So set up a few hours, with an adequate supply of your favorite snack around, and get it done.

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