Age & Income Requirements for Filing Federal Taxes

by Rebecca K. McDowell ; Updated December 04, 2018
Who needs to file an income tax return?

Most U.S. residents are required by law to file federal income tax returns, however, certain individuals are exempt from filing tax returns. The minimum income to file taxes depends upon your age, filing status and the type of income you receive, among other factors.

Filing By Age and Income

The United States Tax Code provides that all individuals who are either U.S. citizens or resident aliens must file a tax return, with exceptions for individuals with gross income of a certain amount. Your age makes a difference, however, so does your filing and dependency status. IRS minimum filing requirements differ for people who can be claimed as a dependent on another taxpayer's tax return. If you're self-employed, you must file a tax return when you earn more than $400 for the year, regardless of age or filing status.

IRS Filing Requirements for 2018

You must file a return for the 2018 tax year if, at the end of 2018:

  • You're single, under age 65 and your gross income is $12,000 or more;
  • You're married filing jointly, under age 65 and your gross income together is $24,000 or more;
  • You're head of household, under age 65 and your gross income is $18,000 or more;
  • You're married filing separately of any age and your gross income is $5 or more;
  • You're a qualifying Widow/er with dependent children, under age 65 and your gross income is $24,000 or more.

The above minimum earned income filing requirements are applicable for taxes that are filed in early 2019, and for taxpayers under the age of 65 who cannot be claimed as a dependent on another's return.

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IRS Filing Requirements for 2017

For the 2017 tax year, you must file a tax return for 2017 if:

  • You're single and you were under 65 at the end of 2017, and your gross income was at least $10,400;
  • You're single and you were 65 or older at the end of 2017, and your gross income was at least $11,950;  
  • You file as head of household and you were under 65 at the end of 2017, and your gross income was at least $13,400;  
  • You file as head of household and you were 65 or older at the end of 2017, and your gross income was at least $14,950;
  • You're married, filing jointly, and you and your spouse were both under 65 at the end of 2017, and your gross income was at least $20,800;
  • You're married, filing jointly, and either you or your spouse (but not both) were 65 or older at the end of 2017, and your gross income was at least $22,070;
  • You're married, filing jointly, and you and your spouse were both 65 or older at the end of 2017, and your gross income was at least $23,300;  
  • You're married, filing separately, and your gross income was over at least $4,050; 
  • You were a qualifying widower who was under age 65 at the end of 2017, and your gross income was at least $16,750; or
  • You were a qualifying widower who was 65 or older at the end of 2017, and your gross income was at least $18,000.

About the Author

Rebecca K. McDowell is an attorney focused on debts and finance. She has a B.A. in English and a J.D. She has written finance and tax articles for Zacks and eHow.

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