Publication 17

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Your Federal Income Tax

Overview

The explanations and examples in this publication reflect the interpretation by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of:

  • Tax laws enacted by Congress,
  • Treasury regulations, and
  • Court decisions.

However, the information given does not cover every situation and is not intended to replace the law or change its meaning.

This publication covers some subjects on which a court may have made a decision more favorable to taxpayers than the interpretation by the IRS. Until these differing interpretations are resolved by higher court decisions or in some other way, this publication will continue to present the interpretations by the IRS.

All taxpayers have important rights when working with the IRS. These rights are described in Your Rights as a Taxpayer in the back of this publication.


This publication covers the general rules for filing a federal income tax return. It supplements the information contained in your tax form instruction booklet. It explains the tax law to make sure you pay only the tax you owe and no more.

This publication closely follows Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. It is divided into six parts which cover different sections of Form 1040. Each part is further divided into chapters which generally discuss one line of the form. Do not worry if you file Form 1040A or Form 1040EZ. Anything included on a line of either of these forms is also included on Form 1040.

The table of contents inside the front cover and the index in the back of the publication are useful tools to help you find the information you need.

The publication begins with the rules for filing a tax return. It explains:

  • Who must file a return,
  • Which tax form to use,
  • When the return is due,
  • How to e-file your return, and
  • Other general information.

It will help you identify which filing status you qualify for, whether you can claim any dependents, and whether the income you receive is taxable. The publication goes on to explain the standard deduction, the kinds of expenses you may be able to deduct, and the various kinds of credits you may be able to take to reduce your tax.

Throughout the publication are examples showing how the tax law applies in typical situations. Sample forms and schedules show you how to report certain items on your return. Also throughout the publication are flowcharts and tables that present tax information in an easy-to-understand manner. Many of the subjects discussed in this publication are discussed in greater detail in other IRS publications. References to those other publications are provided for your information.

What is not covered in this publication. Some material that you may find helpful is not included in this publication but can be found in your tax form instruction booklet. This includes lists of:

  • Where to report certain items shown on information documents, and
  • Recorded tax information topics (TeleTax).

If you operate your own business or have other self-employment income, such as from babysitting or selling crafts, see the following publications for more information.

There are many ways you can get help from the IRS. These are explained under How To Get Tax Help in the back of the publication.


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