The New Form 1040

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Today the Treasury department released the new form 1040, the hated document that many Americans fill out every year.  But it may be considerably less hateful now.  Treasury and the IRS have advertised “taxes on a postcard.”  Paraphrasing Bill Clinton, “That depends on the definition of ‘postcard’.”

In this article I’ll look at the meaning of “postcard” for the form 1040.  The extra-large postcard is 6 x 9 inches.  The U.S. Postal Service defines the maximum size of a postcard as 6 x 4-1/4 inches.  Because the XL postcard is too wide for a standard page, part of this article is in landscape mode.  I’ll post a pdf version for those who want it.  Also, I’ll show screen captures of the form on correctly sized Word documents so you can see the results.  Finally, I’ll post the raw images for anyone who wants to fool with this (all you OCD types).

The form is described as the size of a postcard.  Fitting all that on a standard postcard will need an awfully small font.  The U.S. Postal Service says the maximum postcard size is 6 inches long by 4-1/4 inches high. Let’s see how that looks.

1040 front standard postcard The New Form 1040

(size of postcard: 6 x 4.25 inches)

That’s not very elder-friendly.  Let’s get off the Postal Service reservation and see how the current standard postcard works.  The usual mailer is six inches high and nine inches wide.  For better or worse, that’s wider than a standard U.S. page.  If you want to see this in actual size, look at the pdf below.

1040 front XL postcard The New Form 1040

(actual postcard size 6 x 9 inches, front)

1040 back XL postcard The New Form 1040

(actual postcard size 6 x 9 inches, back)

That’s  considerably better.  My guess is that this is what the IRS has in mind.

Some things to notice:

  • You still have to attach Schedule A if you itemize deductions.
  • Have your own business? You’ll still have to fill out the appropriate form (Schedule C for proprietorships, K for partnerships).
  • I assume that capital gains are part of the “additional income” mentioned on line 6.

But the really big deal is the large standard deduction ($12,000 for individuals, $24,000 for couples).  That plus the limits on deducting state and local taxes means those of us living in high-tax states will have to fill out Schedule A just to see whether we’re better off taking the standard deduction.

As promised, here are the raw images direct from the Treasury website. The pdf version of this article is below those images.  Have fun!

The new 1040, front The New Form 1040

The new 1040, front (click for larger image)

The new 1040, back The New Form 1040

The new 1040, back (click for larger image)


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About Tony Lima

Retired after teaching economics at California State Univ., East Bay (Hayward, CA). Ph.D., economics, Stanford. Also taught MBA finance at the California University of Management and Technology. Occasionally take on a consulting project if it's interesting. Other interests include wine and technology.