Age & Income Requirements for Filing Federal Taxes

by Michael Keenan ; Updated December 08, 2017
Who needs to file an income tax return?

For most income earners, yearly tax returns become an inevitable part of life. In some cases, though, you might be off the hook if you’ve earned less money than the IRS filing threshold for your particular filing status. On the flip side, while filling out your tax return doesn’t make for the most scintillating Saturday night, you could have some cash coming to you even if you don’t think your annual income meets the minimum filing requirements. If you had money withheld for taxes on a W-2 form or meet the qualifications for claiming certain refundable tax credits, it’s worth your time to buckle down and fill out that return.

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 and must have less than $10,500 in income for the 2017 tax year, generated strictly from investment dividends or interest and with no estimated tax 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, younger than 65 and have full use of your sight, you must file a return if your earned income exceeds $6,300 or the standard deduction for 2017. If you are older than 65 or blind, or both, you'll have higher limits. 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.

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If you are single and not listed as 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 $10,400 for the 2017 tax year. If you are older than 65, you must file if your taxable income is over $11,950.

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 than 65 years old and have at least $13,400 in taxable income. If you are older than 65, the threshold increases to $14,950 for tax returns filed in 2017.

Married Couples

Married couples can choose 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 $20,800 if neither spouse is 65 or older. If only one is older than 65, the limit increases to $22,050 and if both are 65 or older the limit increases to $23,300. If you file separate returns, you must file if your income is greater than $4,050 regardless of your age.

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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