A new version of the 1040 income tax form, set for release this week, omits some popular deductions and requires several work sheets for many taxpayers to complete.
The Trump administration’s new “postcard” tax form still must be mailed in an envelope, unless you want your neighbors to see your Social Security number. It will save a little bit of time for some taxpayers but could add pages more paperwork for millions of others.
A draft copy of the new version of the standard 1040 income tax form, obtained by The New York Times, shows the administration has succeeded in its goal of shrinking the form that most Americans send to the Internal Revenue Service every year. The new form eliminates more than half of the 78 line items from the previous form, reducing it from two full pages of text to one double-sided half page.
Check out the old form and the draft new form:
Smaller is not necessarily simpler. The new form omits a variety of popular deductions, including those for student loan interest and teaching supplies, forcing taxpayers to search for them — and tally them up — on one of six accompanying work sheets.
It does the same for business income, capital gains and several other forms of income. It includes a dedicated line for the expanded child tax credit, but not one for child care expenses.
Like we said, there are a lot of work sheets. Again, a draft version:
Administration officials have said they will unveil the new form this week. A person with knowledge of the new form said on Monday that it was meant to replace not just the 1040, but the 1040A (the “short form”) and the 1040EZ (for filers without any dependents). The new form “will be a postcard as we’ve promised,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week, “and hardworking taxpayers won’t have to spend nearly as much time filling out their taxes.”
While the new tax law did not drastically simplify the individual tax code, millions of taxpayers could save a bit of time on their filings this year, by skipping itemized deductions and claiming the newly expanded standard deduction instead. (This assumes taxpayers know right away whether that’s the smartest course for them; if they don’t, they will need to take the time to add up itemized deductions anyway, and then compare with the standard deduction.)
But Democrats say there’s nothing in the draft form, by itself, that will simplify tax season for most Americans. The new form “only adds needless complexity and confusion,” said Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas, the top Democrat on the subcommittee on tax policy. “The longer Form 1040, which all taxpayers have used for decades, is being replaced with Republican mythology that will only complicate tax filing.”
The new form could make things more complicated for the I.R.S., which suffered a critical malfunction on the deadline day for filing tax returns this year. More than 90 percent of taxpayers currently file their taxes electronically, which is actually a boon to the agency, because paper returns are more difficult to process. If the new form reverses that trend and persuades more Americans to mail in their taxes, it could overwhelm an already stressed system.
An I.R.S. spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the draft 1040 form on Monday afternoon.
President Trump is a huge fan of the postcard idea, which he praised throughout the tax debate last fall and into tax season this spring. The new postcard form, though, sadly does not include a provision from Mr. Trump’s campaign plan to simplify the code: a one-page form that Americans facing no income tax liability could send to the Internal Revenue Service, which simply declared “I win.”
Jim Tankersley covers economic and tax policy for The New York Times. @jimtankersley