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Do I Have to File Taxes and How Much Do I Need to Make?

By Kira Botkin

file taxes womanFiling taxes is nobody’s idea of a good time. The process can be lengthy, confusing, financially straining, and even downright intimidating. However, while many people have tons of questions about tax filing, there’s one that’s not often asked: Do I even need to file a tax return? You may be one of the lucky few who can avoid the process entirely.

There are three factors that determine your filing requirement: age, income level, and filing status. Generally, if you earned less than a specified amount according to those three factors, you won’t have to file.

Tax Filing Income Limits

Below are the 2014 tax filing income limits for people who are not filing as dependents:

Filing Status Age Minimum Income Requirement
Single Under 65 $10,150
65 or older $11,700
Head of Household Under 65 $13,050
65 or older $14,600
Married Filing Jointly Under 65 (both spouses) $20,300
65 or older (one spouse) $21,500
65 or older (both spouses) $22,700
Married Filing Separately Any age $3,950
Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Children Under 65 $16,350
65 or older $17,550

Filing status is the primary determining factor as to whether you must file taxes – whether you file as single, head of household, married filing jointly vs. separately, or as a qualifying widower, the income requirements differ greatly.

Age is the other determining factor. If you are younger than 65, you’re required to file taxes at a lower total income than if you are 65 or older. For instance, a 50-year-old earner filing as head of household must file taxes if he or she earned $13,050 or more, whereas an earner who is 66 years old – also filing as head of household – does not need to file unless he or she earned $14,600 or more.

Keep in mind that age is a variant for all but one filing status: If you file as married filing separately, you must file if you earn at least $3,950, regardless of your age.

Do Dependents Need to File?

The IRS has separate rules for dependents, which are contingent upon whether the dependent is younger than 65, married, and/or blind. If the dependent is under 65 and not blind and receives any dividends, interest, or other “unearned” income and no earned income, he or she is required to file a tax return if the amount received was $1,000 or more. The amount increases if the dependent is 65 or older or blind ($2,200 if either 65 or older or blind, or $3,400 if both 65 or older and blind).

If a dependent is under 65 and not blind, and has only earned income, he or she must file if the amount exceeds $6,200. The amount increases if the dependent is blind or older than 65 ($7,750 if 65 or older, or blind; or $9,300 if both 65 or older and blind). However, if a dependent receives both earned and unearned income, the filing requirement is determined by calculation.

Should I File My Taxes Anyway?

Keep in mind that even if you meet the income restrictions for your age and filing status, there are several situations in which you are still required to file taxes:

  • If you (or your spouse, if filing jointly) received HSA, Archer MSA, or Medicare Advantage MSA distributions
  • If you earned self-employment income of $400 or more
  • You had wages of $108.28 or more from a church or qualified church-controlled organization that is exempt from employer social security and Medicare taxes
  • If you owe any special taxes, including any of the following:
    • Alternative minimum tax
    • Additional tax on a qualified plan, such as an IRA or other retirement account.
    • Household employment taxes.
    • Social security and Medicare tax on tips you did not report to your employer or on wages you received from an employer who did not withhold these taxes.
    • Recapture of first-time home buyer credit. (See the instructions for line 59b.)
    • Write-in taxes, including uncollected Social Security and Medicare or RRTA tax on tips you reported to your employer or on group-term life insurance and additional taxes on health savings accounts. (See the instructions for line 60.)
    • Recapture taxes. (See the instructions for line 44 and line 60.)

In some instances, you may meet the income restrictions and legitimately not be required to file – but it might still be in your best interest to do so:

If you’re working and have taxes withheld from your paycheck, but consistently meet these income restrictions each year and have no tax liability, you should check with your employer’s human resources department to adjust your federal income tax withholding allowances on Form W-4.

Final Word

It’s not uncommon for your tax situation to change – which could mean the difference between needing to file or not. If your circumstances have changed recently, check to see if you might be let off the tax hook altogether – it can save you plenty of time and aggravation. However, remember that it’s always in your best interests to file if you are eligible to receive any refundable tax credits.

Do you need to file taxes this year?

Kira Botkin
Kira is a longtime blogger and serial entrepreneur who enjoys gardening, garage sales, and finding stray animals. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, where football is a distinct season, and by day runs a research study for people with multiple sclerosis. She hopes that the MoneyCrashers team can help you achieve your goals and live a great life.

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  • Jeanie

    I have a question ?Someone I know had a car loan,than could not pay it a few years back and just let it go.This year they were to get state tax money back however the IRS kept it.Now this person wants to put money down on a trailer home to have a place to live.The question is will the IRS go after the trailer or put a lien on it to repay what this person owes?As my other friend is going to loan him money for the down payment but is worried the IRS will take the trailer away? hanks

  • Confused


    I called H&R block last year told them I was out of the country made around 2k USD for a year in the country I lived, and since I had been out of the US for several years would I need to file anything, they told me only need to file if I made over 3k USD per year.

    So my question now is, I am back in the US for a year now, I am working one job that maybe will give me about 12k (if I am lucky) per year before taxes, and I do some part time moderating for an online forums that pays 200$ per month that is 2.4k per year do I need to file for the part time moderating I do, or is it total income per year?

  • surya

    Is Tax Filing required for married filing jointly age 65 years or older if the gross income 19000 for year 2014 1090 MISC?

  • OTNOROT 416 Hip Hop

    So hard #Why

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