Tax Forms in the United States
Most Federal tax forms are posted on the the IRS Web site.
Most state tax forms are posted online. State and Federal Forms are also available from Lexis, Bloomberg BNA’s Superform (back to 1993), Checkpoint (e-Forms),Bloomberg BNA’s US Income Portfolios Library (“interactive forms”) and CCH’s Perform Plus.
Alternatively, you can try to get copies of forms from tax libraries, or you can call or visit an office of the relevant taxing authority.
If you truly can’t find a Federal form anywhere else, try the IRS library (202-622-8050).
Historical tax forms: The IRS posts selected historical tax forms for free, accessible through the Forms & Publications page. Some go back to the 1980s, and I saw one from the 1960s.
Superform has forms online back to 1993; subscribers can order tax forms back to 1970 from the Superform “tax form hotline” (800-541-7197). Alternatively, the Jenkins Law Library has tax forms back to at least 1970 (membership required).
For more on state tax forms, see the entries for individual states.
IRS Tax Form Coordinating Committee: The Tax Form Coordinating Committee designs and modifies IRS tax forms. You can get minutes and agendas for their meetings by writing to the IRS Office of Disclosure. Be sure to reference the name of the relevant form and year(s) in question.
Complexity of Tax Forms
Compliance behavior is a direct function of taxpayers’ ability to understand their obligations and to correctly report tax-relevant transactions. Therefore, tax forms, instructions, and publications are a critical link between the tax laws and compliance by taxpayers. These materials themselves affect the complexity faced by taxpayers. They also have a direct impact on effective administration by the IRS. Legislative sensitivity to the manner in which tax law provisions must be implemented is the foundation of effective communication of compliance responsibilities to taxpayers.
In structuring tax forms, the IRS must continue to strive for the most user-friendly products: using familiar words and terminology, limiting the request for information to necessary for accurate reporting, and being well organized and easy to read.
The ability to reduce complexity in these materials is constrained because the forms must implement statutory requirements. For example, the form implementing the 1986 Tax Reform Act treatment of home mortgage interest had to incorporate calculations of deductible interest on acquisition indebtedness as well as on home equity loans for medical and educational expenditures. In addition, the form had to accommodate special calculations for grandfathered debt and the cost-basis ceiling for new acquisition indebtedness. Congress subsequently simplified the limitation on the deductibility of home mortgage interest, removing the need for a separate form altogether. This revision would not have been necessary had Congress appreciated the reporting difficulties involved in its initial proposal.
The forms and instructions for calculating the earned income credit are another example. To complete one line on Form 1040 or Form 1040A, a taxpayer may need to read three pages or more of instructions, complete three worksheets, refer at least twice to an agate type table, and complete a supplementary schedule. The required computations are very difficult and involve alternative calculations. This is a particularly perplexing problem because the affected taxpayers are those with the lowest income, the group least able to comply, because of lack of education and resources to pay for professional assistance.
New legislation places new demands on the administrative resources of the IRS and Treasury Department. The most immediate impact is felt in the task of redesigning tax forms and instructions to incorporate the changes. Interpretation of the law through regulations and rulings is necessary and may require revision of the recently issued forms.
More Tax Legal Materials
More legal materials about Tax include the following topics (see the separate entries for them):
- Tax Code – See: Internal Revenue Code and Tax Regulations
- Tax Liens
- Tax Management Portfolio series (BNA’s)
- Tax Treaties – See also: Treaties and Foreign Treaties
- Tax-Exempt Organizations
- Taxpayer Identification Numbers
Internal Revenue Code and Regulations
Internal Revenue Service
Taxpayer Identification Numbers