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Tax Returns Made EZ

Conducting the Activity

Take what follows as a suggestion.  Feel free to modify it in any way you think appropriate given the group with which you work.

Day 1

  1. Complete the warm-up for this activity.
  2. Distribute and review the student assignment sheet with your class.
  3. Explain that today everyone will be using the same set of numbers as a way of learning the rules for completing a form 1040EZ.
  4. Distribute copies of the sample W2 in PDF format that you printed earlier, and blank 1040EZs and instruction booklets that you either printed or secured from a local post office or library.
  5. Review the sample W2 form, explaining each box.
  6. Line by line, beginning with the name and address and social security number areas, show your students how to complete and sign the 1040EZ. I always explain the $3 presidential campaign fund check off, and make the point that it is optional. As the students are filling out their forms they are to decide whether to place a check there, or leave it blank. Instruct students to enter a 0 (or leave blank) lines 3, 8, 9a and 9b. The most confusing line for students is usually line 11, determining tax owed by looking it up in the booklet table. In my experience, a great many students have never had to find a number in a lookup table. Learning to do so may be the most valuable lesson they take away from this activity.
  7. Ask students to return tomorrow with their 1040EZ instruction booklets.

Day 2

  1. Explain that today, each student will receive his or her own unique W2 form to use in completing a form 1040EZ.
  2. Distribute the W2 forms that you printed using Tax_W2.DOC and Tax_W2.XLS, and blank 1040EZs.
  3. Give students time to complete their blank forms.
  4. Once the allotted time is up, go around the room and have each student report the amount s/he calculated as a refund or tax due. Check each answer against the answer sheet you printed for yourself using Tax_Ans.XLS. If an answer is incorrect, give the correct answer to the student and ask him/her to find the error(s) s/he made, then correct and submit the form at the end of the class period.
  5. Announce that tomorrow, students will once again fill out a new, unique 1040EZ; this time for a grade. Remind them to once again bring in their 1040EZ instruction booklets.

Day 3

  1. Distribute a new set of blank 1040EZs and W2 forms that you printed from Tax_W2.DOC after changing the gross income amounts in Tax_W2.XLS.
  2. Give students time to complete their blank forms.
  3. Collect the completed forms for grading.
  4. Allow students time to discuss benefits they see from learning to complete a 1040EZ.

Day 4 (optional)

  1. Distribute a new set of blank 1040EZs and W2 forms that you printed from Tax_W2.DOC after changing the gross income amounts in Tax_W2.XLS.
  2. Explain that this time, you want them to calculate a number for Line 8 (Making work pay credit).
  3. Show them how to complete the Worksheet for line 8 on the back of the 1040EZ form. Using the original sample W2 and 1040EZ for Sample Student you'll find that the entry for Line 8 will be $400. (And, it will be $400 for all returns where the W-2 wages reported on line 1 are between $6,451 and $75,000.) Tell them to assume that they did not get a stimulus payment in 2009 (meaning that they enter 0 on line 10 of the worksheet).
  4. Give students time to complete their blank 1040EZ forms for their new W2s.
  5. Collect the completed forms for grading.
  6. Allow students time to discuss benefits they see from learning to complete a 1040EZ.

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original web posting: Thursday, April 15, 1999
last modified: Friday, January 06, 2012