Internal Revenue Service United States Department of the Treasury
Level Basic Advanced Military International

Filing Basics

Summary and Exercises


Who Must File?

To determine whether an individual is required to file a federal tax return:

  • Obtain the person's age
  • Calculate the person's approximate gross income
  • Determine the person's likely filing status
  • Use the table and guidelines in the Volunteer Resource Guide, Who Must File section

How do I Verify Taxpayer Identity?

Before entering the taxpayer's identity information in the Main Information Sheet or the appropriate tax return form, first verify the identity of the taxpayer(s), the accuracy of each SSN or ITIN, and spelling of names with the appropriate documents.

Which Tax Return Form Should I Use?

The three federal tax return forms are Form 1040EZ, Form 1040A, and Form 1040. When using tax software, always select Form 1040 from the Main Information Sheet. After you have completed the return, the Main Information Sheet will show the simplest form you can use to print the return.

Filing the Return

E-filing is the safest, fastest, and easiest way to file a tax return. With e-file, taxpayers can generally expect their refund in less than 21 calendar days after the receipt of their tax return.

Recordkeeping Requirements

Taxpayers should keep a copy of the tax return, worksheets used, and records of all items appearing on it (such as Forms 1099) until the later of:

  • Three years from the date the return was due or filed or
  • Two years from the date the tax was paid

Refer to Publication 17 for more information.