Tax Preparation Career Overview

What is a simple tax return?

A simple federal income tax return is one with almost no options. Prior to the 2018 tax year, the Internal Revenue Service offered two streamlined versions of its 1040 individual income tax return. The simplest was Form 1040-EZ, for taxpayers with very basic tax situations and usually the quickest refunds. While the 1040EZ form can still be used to file returns for tax years 2015 – 2017, beginning with the 2018 tax year, the 1040EZ form will no longer be used. Another option, the 1040-A, was also simplified but had more options for filing status and more opportunities to claim tax credits, and like the 1040EZ, will not be used beyond the 2018 tax year.

For the 2018 tax year and onwards, the IRS offers a revised Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR. The IRS also has simplified filing with e-file, an electronic method that was used in 2019 to file over 138 million tax returns for the 2018 tax year.

Simple Returns

The 1040-EZ is for an individual or married couple filing jointly, under age 65 with no taxpayer dependents and with taxable income under $100,000. You must be reporting income only from wages, salaries, tips, taxable scholarship or fellowship grants, unemployment compensation, or Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, and taxable interest not more than $1,500, with no mortgage interest or other itemized deductions. This is easiest to e-file, and if you don’t qualify, the system will automatically tell you.

Information You May Need

  • All income documents.
  • Your age, your spouse’s age, and filing status.
  • Federal income tax withheld.

The tool is designed for taxpayers that were U.S. citizens or resident aliens for the entire tax year for which they’re inquiring. If married, the spouse must also have been a U.S. citizen or resident alien for the entire tax year. For information regarding nonresidents or dual-status aliens, please see International Taxpayers.


Conclusions are based on information provided by you in response to the questions you answered. Answers do not constitute written advice in response to a specific written request of the taxpayer within the meaning of section 6404(f) of the Internal Revenue Code.

How to file a simple tax return for a stimulus check

The Internal Revenue Service has provided a simple tool for people who are eligible for the federal government’s economic impact payment but do not normally file taxes.

One aspect of the $2 trillion package to help mitigate the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic is a $1,200 check, which will be automatically sent to most eligible U.S. taxpayers. Among those are people who filed a federal income tax for 2018 or 2019; people who receive Social Security retirement or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, or those who receive Railroad Retirement benefits. These people will not need to file anything to receive a check.

However, some non-filers are also eligible, including citizens and permanent residents who had a gross income that did not exceed $12,200, or $24,400 for married couples for 2019 or those who were not otherwise required to file a federal income tax return for 2019.

The IRS has provided a quick tool to enter payment information to help determine a person’s eligibility and payment amount.

“After providing this information you won’t need to take any additional action,” the IRS says.

After going to this site and clicking “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here,” you will be asked to create an account by providing your email address and phone number, and establishing a user ID and password. Then you’ll be directed to a screen where you will input your filing status (single or married filing jointly) and personal information. Make sure you have a valid Social Security number for you, and your spouse if you were married by the end of last year.

You will also be asked for bank information, or you will be sent a check. You will need your driver’s license (or state-issued ID) information. If you don’t have one, leave that area blank.

An e-mail from customer service will either acknowledge that you have successfully submitted the information, or will tell you if more is needed.

Among information you’ll be asked for:

  • Full name, current mailing address and an email address.
  • Date of birth and valid Social Security number.
  • Bank account number, type and routing number, if you have one.
  • Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) you received from the IRS earlier this year, if you have one.
  • For each qualifying child: name, Social Security number or Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number and their relationship to you or your spouse.

Pick a Filing Status

Your filing status helps you figure out what you’ll need to do to file, what your standard deduction is, your eligibility for certain credits, and how much you’ll owe in taxes.

There are times when picking your filing status is pretty straightforward—like if you’re single—and other times when you might qualify for more than one filing status and it’s not so clear.

How do you figure out which filing status to pick? There are five different statuses to choose from:

  • Single. If you’re not married, divorced or legally separated, or widowed before the tax year, you’ll file as a single taxpayer. Simple enough, right?
  • Married Filing Jointly. You’re married and both of you agree to file a joint return. In most cases, married couples usually save more by filing jointly.
  • Married Filing Separately. If you’re married and for some reason don’t agree to file jointly—maybe you want to be responsible for your taxes only or filing separately results in a lower tax bill—you can use this filing status.
  • Head of Household. This one’s a little tricky. To qualify you must have paid for more than half of the household expenses for the year, be unmarried, and must have a “qualifying child or dependent.” So, if you’re a single parent or taking care of an ailing family member, you might qualify to file as head of household.
  • Qualifying widow(er). If your spouse dies and you don’t remarry in the same tax year, you can file jointly with your deceased spouse. For the two years following the year of death, you can use the qualifying widow(er) filing status if you choose to.1

In most cases, folks will either file as single taxpayers or married filing jointly. But there are some rare instances where you might consider filing separately or another filing status if it applies—so always do the math.

How does a client get their Economic Impact (stimulus) Payment?

Most taxpayers do not have to do anything to receive their EIP. Taxpayers will generally fall into one of three categories. Determine which of the following applies to the taxpayer’s situation, then follow the process indicated below:

  • If the taxpayer qualifies to file a tax return on Form 1040 or 1040-SR, go to item 1.
  • If the taxpayer is a social security beneficiary who is not required to file a tax return, see 2 below.
  • If the taxpayer does not fit into category 1 or 2, they must file a simple return; see 3 below.

For more information about the Economic Impact Payments, including details on amounts and qualifying individuals, see the IRS website. A Frequently Asked Questions section is available to address some common issues. Sections help further define those who are and are not eligible to receive a payment, as well as how to return payments received in error.

1. Regular Filers

If a taxpayer has already filed a 2018 or 2019 return on which direct deposit information was included, the IRS will use that account to directly deposit their Economic Impact payment. If the taxpayer did not receive a refund in 2018 or 2019, they can use the IRS portal to enter their direct deposit information. See the IRS Economic Impact Payments page for details.

2. Social Security Beneficiaries

Social Security beneficiaries who are not typically required to file tax returns will not need to file a simple tax return to receive an Economic Impact Payment. Instead, payments will be automatically deposited into their bank accounts. See Related Links below for more information on the Treasury Department’s announcement.

3. Simple Return

Those taxpayers who normally are not required to file a tax return will need to file a “simple tax return” in order to get a stimulus payment. This allows taxpayers who did not file a 2018 or 2019 return to provide their household and direct deposit information to the IRS/Treasury department. For more information, review the IRS website and the Non-filers page.