Are You Required to File Taxes?

FT Contributor  | 

There is not technically a universal requirement to file an income tax return every year; if your total annual income does not reach a particular threshold, there is no need to file a federal tax return. Unfortunately, this threshold is blurred in terms of providing a simple “yes” or “no” answer to tax filing requirements, which are based on filing status, age, how much income one makes, and whether they can be claimed as a dependent or are claiming a dependent.

Generally, however, if you make money in any given year there is a good chance that you will need to file taxes. It is important to keep in mind that tax laws and associated figures are subject to change every year, so be sure to check back in on the IRS’s requirements for the final word on current federal tax law.

How Much Do You Have to Make to File Taxes?

The amount you’re able to earn before you’re required to file taxes is determined by looking at a number of factors, including gross income. Gross income is the sum of all wages, in all forms, before any deductions or taxes are withheld. Once the amount of gross income is determined, thresholds are defined by filing status, age, and dependent(s). The following requirements apply to income made in the 2018 fiscal year — requirements may change for 2019.

Single

If you are single, under the age of 65 and had a gross income of at least $12,000 during the 2018 fiscal year, then you must file taxes. If you are single, 65 or older and had a gross income of at least $13,600 during 2018, then you must file taxes.

Married Filing Jointly

If you are married and filing jointly, and both spouses are under 65 and had a gross income of at least $24,000 combined, then you must file taxes. If you are married and filing jointly, one spouse is over 65, one spouse is under 65, and both had a gross income of at least $25,300, then you must file taxes. If you are married and filing jointly, and both spouses are 65 or older and had a gross income of at least $26,600, then you must file taxes.

Married Filing Separately

If you are married but choosing to file separately, regardless of age, you must file taxes if your gross income was at least $5 combined. The reasoning behind this is that one spouse can decrease taxable income which will, in turn, reduce the couple’s tax liability as a whole.

Head of Household

If you are filing as the head of household, and are under the age of 65 with a gross income of at least $18,000, then you must file taxes. If you are filing as the head of household,  and are 65 or older with a gross income of at least $19,600, then you must file taxes. If you get married during the fiscal year you must choose between filing jointly or filing separately.

“Head of household” is defined by a few criteria; if you are single during the fiscal year, and if you have paid 50% or more of the cost of the household and household upkeep, you can claim yourself as head of household. To elaborate, if you are single and live on your own and you pay all the costs associated with housing, or if you are single and take care of your parents who cannot work, then you may file your taxes as head of household.

Qualifying Widow(er)

If you are filing as a qualifying widow(er) under the age of 65 and your gross income is at least $24,000, then you must file taxes. If you are filing as a qualifying widow(er), 65 or older, and your gross income is at least $24,300, then you must file taxes. The death of the spouse must be within the fiscal year.

Filing A Tax Return When You Don’t Have To

By the books, you may not need to file a tax return, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. If federal taxes are taken out of your paycheck, they can only be refunded back if you file a tax return. Also, if there are misunderstandings and you don’t file, but you need to, you may be audited by the IRS. When in doubt, file. 


Image Source: Deposit Photos

This post was updated September 9, 2019. It was originally published September 13, 2019.