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.

Teaching students how to complete a federal 1040 tax form can be a bit tedious. There are lots of lines with tiny print, and most are irrelevant to younger folks. I update this 1040 cheat sheet every year to make the process of completing a 1040 a lot less stressful, especially for working teens.

At the end of one school year, I asked my consumer math students what they wished they had learned more about that year. Many answered, "Taxes." I heard a lot of complaining during our income taxes unit that year, so their answers surprised me. I learned that my students found the information valuable after all. 

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 9th 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 update it every year.

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 2024 tax season): 
There were only minor line changes to this year's 1040. The standard deduction for a single person increased from $12,950 to $13,850. Digital assets are mentioned again this year. For the first time in the 9 or 10 years I've been updating the tax activity linked above, the 1040 barely changed, which was a nice change of pace from previous years. 

Here is a FREE cheat sheet for filing income tax returns. It is set up for working teens, but can be used for any simple federal tax return:

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. 

In 2022, I built a consumer math curriculum that covers a lot of the topics we all wish we had learned before graduating. The topics covered in the curriculum include: wants vs. needs, checks and registers, wages and salary, bank accounts, budgeting, credit cards, credit score, discounts and coupons, sales tax and tip, percent change, unit prices, income taxes, car loans, mortgages, student loans, investing, car insurance, and health insurance.


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