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. 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.
Filing Status and Minimum Income Requirements
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. 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 another interactive tax assistant tool on the IRS’ website to see if you need to file for any given tax year.
Here is a brief list of the 2017 tax year’s minimum income thresholds you need to reach – for each filing status – before you are required to file.
- Under age 65 – $10,400
- Age 65 or older – $11,950
Married Filing Jointly Status
- Both spouses under age 65 – $20,800
- One spouse age 65 or older – $22,050
- Both spouses age 65 years or older – $23,300
Married Filing Separately Status
- Any age – $4,050
Head of Household Status
- Under age 65 – $13,400
- Age 65 or older – $14,950
Qualifying Widow/er Status
- Under age 65 – $16,750
- Over age 65 – $18,000
Claiming Credits with Zero 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.
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