When it comes to filing taxes, the IRS is more concerned with how much money you made than how many months it took you to make it. If you didn't work for 12 months of the year, you may be wondering how many months do you have to work to file income tax. Filing income taxes or not is dependent upon several considerations, including your age, marital status and whether you’re claimed as a dependent on anyone’s taxes. After you’ve earned a certain amount of income for your filing status, regardless of how long it took you to do it, then you are required to file taxes with the IRS.
Know Your Filing Status
Filing statuses may seem pretty straightforward, but every year, countless taxpayers file incorrectly. Adding to the confusion, sometimes you may find yourself eligible to file under two different filing statuses. In this case, the IRS instructs you to file under whichever status affords you the lowest taxes. Your income, age and filing status are the most important factors in determining if you need to file a personal tax return or not.
There are five filing statuses that the IRS uses to calculate how you will be taxed: single, head of household, married filing jointly, married filing separately and qualifying widow/er. Each filing status has its own criteria and the IRS’ website has an interactive tax assistant tool to help you determine which filing status is most appropriate for you.
Minimum Income to File Taxes
Once you know your filing status, then you will need to use both your age and income to figure out if you must file taxes on your earnings. You can use interactive tax assistant tools on the IRS’ website to help determine if you need to file for any given tax year.
For example, if you are not someone's dependent, under the age of 65 and you're using the single filing status, for tax year 2019 (filed in 2020) you must make more than $12,200 before you need to file a federal tax return. Generally, this minimum filing threshold is adjusted annually for inflation.
So, if you only worked for two months, you need to file taxes if you earned more than $12,200 and you're single. In 2020, an individual using single filing status who is also under the age of 65 must make more than $12,400 in order to be required to file taxes.
Read More: Who Must File Income Taxes?
Claiming Credits Without Tax Liability
In the event you check your earned income against minimum income requirements and do not need to file, it may still be worth doing so anyway. If your income falls below the minimum threshold for filing, you should still file to see if you qualify for certain refundable tax credits. These tax credits are an incentive for taxpayers to take part in certain programs, or the credits are available to help low-to-moderate-income wage earners shoulder the rising costs of living.
Tax credits can be refundable or non-refundable. Refundable tax credits go towards reducing your tax obligation. Once the taxes you owe are reduced to zero, you could be eligible for a refund of the difference. However you can receive a refund only if you file.
The IRS will not notify you that you qualify for credits or refunds. These refundable tax credits vary from year to year, and some are subject to phase-out limitations. It is best to check the IRS’ website, or consult with a qualified tax preparer, to find out which credits are available for the year you plan to file taxes.
Read More: How to Calculate Refundable Tax Credits
Tara Thomas is a Los Angeles-based writer and avid world traveler. Her articles appear in various online publications, including Sapling, PocketSense, Zacks, Livestrong, Modern Mom and SF Gate. Thomas has a Bachelor of Science in marine biology from California State University, Long Beach and spent 10 years as a mortgage consultant.