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Frequently Asked Questions: Who Must File and Which Form to Use

Q: How do I get a copy of last year’s tax return? 

A: A taxpayer can get copies of his/her return or a transcript (often all that is needed) by calling the IRS at 800-908-9946 or referring to these instructions. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide does NOT keep records. 

Q: I withdrew $350 from an IRA. Can I use the 1040EZ or do I need to use the 1040?

A: If you have a filing requirement, you will have to use either Form 1040A or Form 1040 to report the IRA distribution.

Q: I have not yet filed my last year's taxes. How much trouble am I in?

A: If you owe additional tax you will probably have a failure-to-file and a failure-to-pay-on-time penalty plus interest. There are no penalties if you are due a refund. However, you have only three years from the due date of the return to file and claim a refund.

Prior year forms and instructions are available here.

Q: My mother was informed by both the IRS and a tax adviser that she didn't have to file returns. Consequently, since her income has been the same, she has not filed a return for a few years. I've never heard that anyone was exempt from filing a tax return and would like to know if this is true.

A: Yes, it is possible. Whether you have to file is a function of your taxable gross income, filing status, whether you are at least age 65, whether you are someone's dependent and whether you have self-employment income. You can find the actual filing requirements in IRS Pub 501 under the heading "Who Must File."

Q: I am retired and collecting Social Security benefits. I have other income and it is possible that some of my benefits will be taxed. Which form do I need to use?

A: Forms 1040 and 1040A are the only two forms that have a line where you can report taxable social security. The instructions for both those forms have a worksheet that you may use to calculate taxable social security.

Q: I am a full-time college student. My parents claim me as an exemption. I work part time for the college. Do I have to file a tax return?

A: Whether or not you have to file will depend upon whether your earned and/or unearned income exceeds certain limits. See the two sections in IRS Pub 501 called "Self-employed Persons" and "Dependents."

If you find that filing a return is not required, you should file a federal income tax return to obtain a refund of any income tax withheld from your pay.

Through the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program, AARP Foundation is providing online tax counseling as a public service, and cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided. Your taxes are your responsibility. You are solely responsible for what you do in your own tax situation.

The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program is a volunteer-run, free tax-preparation and assistance service offered to low- and middle-income taxpayers with special attention to those age 60 and older. Our volunteers are trained and IRS-certified to understand individual federal-tax issues. Our volunteers provide tax assistance as a public service and cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided.