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At the bottom of IRS Form 1040 and its relatives, there is a field for "Occupation".

  • I can think of a lot of different words I could use to describe my occupation. Are there any requirements or guidelines for how I should decide what to put?

  • How does the IRS use this information, if at all?

This forum discussion suggests the answers are "it really doesn't matter" and "they don't", but it doesn't seem authoritative.

The only use I can imagine is that if you write down an occupation that typically has a very high income ("railroad tycoon", "oil baron", "international crime lord"), and then report a tiny income, it might make you more likely to be audited.

(Note: I am not referring to the "Principal Business" field on Schedule C, lines A and B.)

  • In the 2016 1040NR, the field actually says "Occupation in the United States" which is even more confusing, if I have an occupation but it is not in the United States. What do they care when I stopped beating my wife?? – Douglas Held Apr 3 '17 at 12:24
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It doesn't generally matter, and I'm not sure if it is in fact in use by the IRS other than for general statistics (like "this year 20% of MFJ returns were with one spouse being a 'homemaker'").

They may be able to try and match the occupation and the general levels and types of income, but for self-employed there's a more precise and reliable field on Schedule C and for employees they don't really need to do this since everything is reported on W2 anyway. So I don't think they even bother or give a lot of value to such a metric.

So yes, I'm joining the non-authoritative "doesn't matter" crowd.

  • I don't even know that I put down a consistent answer before I used tax software to complete the forms. Was I a programmer, computer programmer, software developer? – mhoran_psprep Feb 22 '15 at 11:51
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    I use "underwater basket weaver". – dg99 Feb 23 '15 at 2:02

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