Teaching Teens How to File a 1040 Tax Return

Filing income taxes can be intimidating! In this post is a set of task cards that teach students how to file a 1040 federal tax form. The activity teaches how to file a 1040 tax return and how to fill out a Schedule 1 through a fun tsk cards activity that walks students through how to fill out the forms.

Filing income taxes can be intimidating! And teaching students how to file a federal 1040 tax form can be a bit tedious. There are so many lines on the form, most irrelevant to younger folks, that it can become overwhelming. 

Still, at the end of one school year when I had asked my consumer math students what they wished I had taught them more about, many answered, "Taxes." So even though they complained through our tax unit (who can blame them?), I learned that my students found the information valuable. 

Tax Task Cards - Federal Income Tax 1040 activity updated every tax season

Every year I update this Tax Task Cards Activity for the current tax season so that students can learn how to file a federal tax return. This is the 8th year I've updated the activity, and I will continue to update it every year. If you already own the activity, updates will always be free. You just have to re-download the file after it is updated. I will updated it every year by February 1.

In the activity, students walk through 20 task cards guiding them through completing a federal income tax Form 1040 and Schedule 1. They are given a W-2 for a fictional "William A. Pay" who works as a teacher in Boston and who paid some student loan interest last year. William had also been unemployed for part of the year, taking his unemployment compensation untaxed. Will this lead to him owing the IRS? 

Included in the activity:

- 20 task cards, 

- blank checks, 

- a W-2, 

- a student answer sheet, 

- completed 1040 and Schedule 1, 

- answer key for the student answer sheet.


The final product of this activity is a completed federal tax Form 1040, Schedule 1 and an answer sheet. 


1040 changes this year (April 2022 tax season): 
There were only minor line changes to this year's 1040 and Schedule 1 tax forms. The standard deduction for a single person increased from $12,400 to $12,550. Virtual currency is mentioned again this year. Last year was the first year it was mentioned on the 1040. Mr. Pay hasn't yet gotten into crypto.


I loved teaching consumer math to my high school seniors because it empowered them them to be in charge of their finances. I compiled this Consumer Math Activities Bundle with activities for teaching percents, taxes, budgets and paychecks, simple and compound interest, the stock marker and wants vs. needs. 

I'm pretty passionate (read: borderline obsessed) with teaching teens financial literacy before they leave high school. I am currently writing a Consumer Math curriculum that will cover a lot of the topics we all wish we were taught before graduation.


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