If you receive Social Security benefits, you must report them when you file taxes, and you can't do that on the basic 1040EZ form. Right now, you can use a 1040 or 1040A form, and starting with tax year 2019, seniors 65 and over will be able to use a new, simple form called the 1040SR.
You can't use the 1040EZ if you have Social Security benefits to report on your taxes.
Reporting Social Security to the IRS
If you receive Social Security benefits thanks to your age or another reason, you generally must report them to the Internal Revenue Service when you file your income taxes. You should receive a form from the Social Security Administration called the SSA-1099 that includes the information you need to report, including how much in benefits you earned the previous year.
Tax forms 1040 and 1040A have places to indicate how much you received in Social Security benefits. Note that if your income is high enough in a given year, you may be required to pay some income tax on these benefits.
Form 1040EZ, the simplest tax form the IRS makes available, doesn't have a way to report Social Security benefits, so it can't be used by anyone receiving them. It also can't be used by taxpayers 65 and over, which separately rules out many Social Security recipients.
Form 1040A is slightly simpler than the most inclusive tax form, so it may still be worth using this form if your income is relatively simple. Note that you can't itemize deductions using that form, and you can't use the form if you made more than $100,000 in taxable income, among other restrictions.
Both the 1040EZ and 1040A are only available for use through the tax year 2017. The IRS has done away with both forms and replaced them with a simpler 1040 form for tax year 2018. On this form, Social Security benefits go on line 5a.
Beginning in tax year 2019, for which people will generally file returns in 2020, seniors will be able to file their taxes with a new, relatively simple form called 1040SR, even if they receive Social Security. This is thanks to the Bipartisan Budget Act passed by Congress in 2018. The new form will only be usable by taxpayers 65 and over, so people under 65 receiving Social Security will not be able to use the form and will have to stick with the 1040.
Like the 1040EZ, the new form will be usable by people with relatively simple finances. For instance, like the 2017 1040EZ and 1040A, it only supports the standard deduction. Older taxpayers who would pay less tax by itemizing their deductions would likely still use a more complex form in order to save on their taxes.
Steven Melendez is an independent journalist with a background in technology and business. He has written for a variety of business publications including Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal, Innovation Leader and Ad Age. He was awarded the Knight Foundation scholarship to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.