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You hear about income tax returns and income tax forms. How do they differ?
To help you understand, generally, a tax form is a single sheet of paper (form) that contains information regarding a specific topic. (Check out the IRS website to get an idea of the amount of income tax forms available). Every topic you can think of that affects income taxes will have an IRS form. For instance, one Form 1099 is used to report income you received from one source. The IRS Form Schedule C will contain information about a business owner's income and expenses. Form 1040 and its variations (A, EZ) are each considered an income tax form. That, in a nutshell, is what a tax form is. It is a sheet of paper used to report tax information to the IRS.
On the other hand, a tax return consists of a variety of tax forms that are applicable to your complete income tax return. You attach your tax forms (W-2, Schedule C, etc.) to your Form 1040 or Form 1040A. Information from your individual tax forms is transferred onto your Form 1040 or Form 1040A. Notice that every applicable tax form has a line near the bottom stating, ‘enter on Line.... of Form 1040 (or A)'. These figures all combine to give you either a refund or a tax payment due amount. This total combined consolidation of all the forms you will be filing with the IRS is your income tax return. Once again, there are exceptions (such as 941 payroll tax return), but in general this is true.