An image of a business owner researching how to fill out a 1040 form.

How to fill out a 1040 form for business owners and self-employed individuals

While the 1040 is one of the most common tax forms, it’s also deceptively complex. The instructions for Form 1040 are over 100 pages and can be a headache for filing sole proprietorship taxes or for small business owners trying to figure out which tax forms they need. 

To guide you through the accountant jargon, let’s look at how to fill out a 1040 form step-by-step, including whether you need to file one and the schedules you might need: 

  1. Determine if you need to file a Form 1040
  2. Fill in your personal information
  3. Report your income
  4. Figure out your deductions
  5. Determine the schedules you need
  6. Calculate your tax
  7. File your Form 1040

1. Determine if you need to file a Form 1040

If you work or earn income, you’ll likely need to file a Form 1040. This form, also known as the US Individual Income Tax Return, is how most individuals file their taxes. 

The 1040 form is a two-page document for taxpayers to determine, report, and file their income. It’s also here that taxpayers calculate their deductions and ultimately figure out how much they owe in federal income taxes.

Generally, the Form 1040 requirements require you to file a tax form for 2023 if:

  • You have over $400 in net earnings from self-employment 
  • Your filing status is single, and your gross income is at least: 
  • $13,850 if under 65
  • $15,700 if 65 or older 
  • Your filing status is head of household, and your gross income is at least: 
  • $20,800 if under 65
  • $22,650 if 65 or older 
  • Your filing status is married filing jointly, and your gross income is at least: 
  • $27,700 if both spouses are under 65
  • $29,200 if one spouse is 65 or older 
  • $30,700 if both spouses are 65 or older
  • Your filing status is married filing separately, and your gross income is at least: 
  • $5 for any age
An illustration of when you need to fill out a 1040 form.

You can report your business income and expenses using Form 1040 if you’re self-employed, a small business owner who runs your company as a sole proprietorship, or your company is a single-member LLC. If your company is an S corporation or C corporation, you’ll need to prepare a separate corporate tax return.

2. Fill in your personal information

To start, you’ll want to gather all your personal information, as well as several other documents. Your personal information includes your name and Social Security number for you and your spouse and any dependents.

An illustration of what you need to complete a Form 1040, including your income documents and past tax return.

You’ll also want to gather all your information during this step as well. Other items you’ll need include income documents like W-2 and 1099 forms, as well as proof of any tax deductions like mortgage interest or medical expense receipts.

3. Report your income

Boxes 1-15 will be for reporting your income. Your income can include items like:

  • Wages
  • Tip income 
  • Interest 
  • Dividends
  • Retirement income 

Other items that qualify as income include Social Security benefits and capital gains or losses. Box 8 of the income section includes additional income from your Schedule 1, which is a form for additional types of income that do not appear on page one of the 1040 form.

For example, Schedule 1 includes items like rent and royalty, alimony, business income or loss, income from S-corps, or unemployment.

Feel confident from day one

You're never too small, and it's never too soon to know you're on track for success.

4. Figure out your deductions

For your 1040 form, you can either choose standard or itemized deduction. Most filers choose the standard deductions, but if you have itemized deductions that are greater than the standard deduction, you can itemize them with Schedule A. 

The IRS standard deduction amount for 2023 is $13,850 if you are single or married filing separately, $27,700 for married filing jointly, or $20,800 for the head of household. 

Meanwhile, itemized deductions include expenses like: 

  • Mortgage interest
  • State or local taxes 
  • Charitable donations 
  • Medical or dental expenses 

Note these are different from self-employed tax deductions, which you’ll include on your Schedule C. 

Also, you may benefit from the Qualified Business Income (QBI) deduction, aka Section 199A deduction, if your business is a pass-through entity.

5. Determine the schedules you need

Taxpayers with simpler tax returns, such as those with just W-2 income and the standard deduction, will likely only need to file Form 1040. However, small business owners, self-employed individuals, and others with unique situations will likely need to file an additional schedule and attach it to their 1040 form. 

Here are some of the most common schedules that you might need to append to your 1040 form:

  • Schedule A for reporting itemized deductions like medical expenses 
  • Schedule B for interest and dividend income 
  • Schedule C for reporting business revenues and expenses as a self-employed individual or sole proprietor
  • Schedule D for asset sales that generate capital gains or losses 
  • Schedule E for income or loss from rental real estate 
  • Schedule SE for calculating and reporting self-employment tax 
  • Schedule 1 for reporting other income like unemployment or business income from your Schedule C
A paper with a picture of a plan on it.

Note that you might also need to use other schedules, such as Schedule EIC for Earned Income Credit, Schedule F for farm profit or loss, or Schedule H for household employment taxes.

6. Calculate your tax

Now, it’s time to calculate your tax liability. First, you’ll need your taxable income, which is your adjusted gross income minus standard or itemized deductions.

An illustration of the must-know formulas for Form 1040, such as for calculating taxable income and your tax liability.

Then, use your taxable income to calculate the amount of tax you owe using the applicable tax rate from the tax tables. The tax you owe is your taxable income times the tax rate. However, this isn’t necessarily what you owe. Your tax liability is what you’ll need to pay the IRS. 

The tax liability is the amount of tax you owe minus tax credits and tax withholdings. Tax credits can include items like the child tax credit, while withholdings include taxes you had withheld during the year.

While Form 1040 instructions include tax tables for calculating your tax liability, using tax software can help you automatically calculate this.

FYI: If your tax liability is negative, the IRS owes you a tax refund. If the number is positive, that’s how much you owe the government.

7. File your Form 1040

Now that you know how to fill out a 1040 form, it’s time to file it with the IRS. Luckily, this part is much easier than filling it out. You can file your tax forms with the IRS via mail or go paperless this tax season and file electronically. 

Filing electronically, also known as e-filing, can mean you get a refund quicker, especially if you send the refund to your bank account. No matter how you file your 1040 form, the tax due date

If your tax situation is complex, you can request a six-month extension for more time to file, but you still have to pay your tax liability by the tax due date to avoid interest charges.

Find peace of mind come tax time

Whether you fill out your 1099 and 1040 forms on your own, use software, consult an accountant, or do all three, it’s a good idea to know the tax laws. But if you don’t want to read through all the IRS instructions on how to fill out a 1040 form, there are tools to help simplify the process for you. 

Consider using accounting software like QuickBooks to keep track of your expenses during the current year—making it easier for you to complete the various schedules and file your taxes accurately.

How to fill out a 1040 form FAQ

Recommended for you

Mail icon
Get the latest to your inbox
No Thanks

Get the latest to your inbox

Relevant resources to help start, run, and grow your business.

By clicking “Submit,” you agree to permit Intuit to contact you regarding QuickBooks and have read and acknowledge our Privacy Statement.

Thanks for subscribing.

Fresh business resources are headed your way!

Looking for something else?


From big jobs to small tasks, we've got your business covered.

Firm of the Future

Topical articles and news from top pros and Intuit product experts.

QuickBooks Support

Get help with QuickBooks. Find articles, video tutorials, and more.