Age & Income Requirements for Filing Federal Taxes

by Michael Keenan ; Updated July 27, 2017
Who needs to file an income tax return?

The IRS sets up thresholds for income that, if met, require the individual or couple to file federal income taxes. The IRS does this to ensure that anyone who may be required to pay taxes does. Even if you are not required to file, you may want to file if you have had income withheld or if you have refundable tax credits that you can claim so the government will send you a refund check.

Age Requirements

Your age does not exempt you from having to file a federal tax return at the end of the year. If you meet the income requirements for filing a tax return, you must file and pay taxes. However, if you are younger than 19 or if you are a full-time student younger than 24 you may be eligible to have your income included on your parent's federal tax return. To be eligible, the child or student must not file a joint return, must have less than $9,500 in income, the income can only be from dividends or interest and no estimated tax was withheld from the income. In most cases, the tax bill will be smaller if the dependent files his own taxes rather than putting the income on the parent's tax return because the dependent will usually be in a lower tax bracket.


If you are listed as a dependent on another person's taxes, you may still be required to file your own taxes depending on your income and age. If you are single and younger than 65, you must file a return if your income exceeds the annual limit or your earned income is over the standard deduction. If you are older than 65, your limits are higher than those who are younger. If you are married, you have to file a return if you meet the filing requirements for singles or if you have at least $5 of earned income and your spouse itemizes deductions.


If you are single and not listed and a dependent on another person's tax return, the minimums for filing a federal tax return are higher. If you are younger than 65, you must file a return if your taxable income exceeds $9,750. If you are older than 65, you must file if your taxable income is over $11,200.

Heads of Household

To file as a head of household, you must have at least one dependent and not be married. If you use this filing status, you must file a tax return if you are less then 65 years old and have at least $12,500 in taxable income. If you are older than 65, the threshold increases to $13,950.

Married Couples

Married couples can chose to file a joint return or two separate returns. If you plan to file a joint return you must file if your income is at least $19,500 if neither spouse is 65 or older. If only one is older than 65, the limit increases to $20,650 and if both are 65 or older the limit increases to $21,800. If you file separate returns, you must file if your income is greater than $3,800 regardless of how old you are.


About the Author

Mark Kennan is a writer based in the Kansas City area, specializing in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."

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