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The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Tax Forms

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It may seem like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is always asking for a ton of paperwork, but understanding which to complete and submit to them shouldn’t take too much time. You’ll definitely want to know the difference between a 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ … especially with the Federal income tax extension deadline approaching (on October 16).

You can’t really narrow down the most important ones as the required information for each situation that deals with the IRS is different, but it can be broken down to better understand which pertains to you. It also helps to know the name of the form instead of just the number.

The two most common categories are Individual and Business – see below for some of the most commonly used tax forms.



Form 1040 (US Individual Income Tax Return)

Used by citizens or residents of the United States to file their annual income tax return.

Form W-9 (Request for Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) and Certification)

For those that work as an independent contractor.

Form W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate)

Used to indicate employee’s exemptions, status, deductions and more.

Form 9465 (Installment Agreement Request)

Completed as request for a monthly installment plan if you can’t pay the full amount you owe shown on your tax return.

Form W-7 (Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number)

For non-citizens who aren’t eligible to receive a Social Security number but need to file a federal tax return with the IRS for income from US sources they would need an individual taxpayer identification number.

Form 4506-T (Request for Transcript of Tax Return)

This allows you to request past tax returns or transcripts that are on file with the IRS.

Form 8822 (Change of Address)

Inform the IRS of an address change.

Form 1040-EZ (Income Tax Return for Single and Joint Filers With No Dependents)

Used to file if your annual income tax return your taxable income is less than $100,000, you don’t claim any dependents and you file as single or are married filing jointly.

Form 1040-ES (Estimated Tax for Individuals)

Provided to help you to calculate and pay estimated taxes for the current year


For the general rules on filing your federal tax return, see Publication 17.



Form 941 (Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return)

If you operate a business and have employees working for you, then you must file this form – it is essentially a payroll tax form.

Form W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate)

Used to indicate employee’s exemptions, status, deductions and more.

Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement)

This will shows the amount of taxes withheld from your paycheck for the year and is used to file your federal and state taxes.

Form SS-4 (Application for Employer Identification Number (EIN))

Used to apply for an employer identification number (EIN),

Form 1099-MISC (Miscellaneous Income)

A report of total amount of payments you receive from a single person or entity during the year you’ve provided services to them.

Form 940 (Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return)

FUTA provides unemployment funds for employees who have lost their jobs.


In order to understand tax responsibilities as an employer, review Publication 15.


Still having a hard time deciphering each of the forms and determining which to fill out? Contact Tax Defense Partners for help!


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Parham Khorsandi, our VP of client services, talks about the concerns many people have about the IRS and their involvement with taxes on the cannabis industry.

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