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In IRS free file fillable forms, I also had a taxable pension and IRA with basis. In past years my first e file was rejected when I entered the pension in 16a and I had to delete that entry, so was curious what would happen this year with the combined line 4. So I filed with 4a showing the pension and the IRA gross distribution and that was accepted.
The 1040 Inst for line 4 include a paragraph for “more than one distribution” but it is printed in the IRA distribution section. I think they need to state at the very beginning of the line 4 instructions that this provisions applies jointly to multiple distributions of either pensions, IRAs or both. In summary it looks like combining into line 4 results in all amounts going on 4a if ANY distribution goes on 4a.