Just because your parents are claiming you as a dependent doesn't mean you can't also file taxes. Depending on how much income you earned during the year, you may even have to file. In other situations, filing a return is the only way to get a refund you're owed.
When You Have to File
All taxpayers have to file a tax return in certain situations regardless of age. Taxpayers who earn more than that year's standard deduction -- $6,300 in 2015 -- must file a tax return even if they're being claimed as dependents by their parents. The same rule applies for children who have more than $1,050 in unearned income, such as from interest or dividends, as of 2015. If you have a combination of earned and unearned income, you must file if:
- Your earned income exceeds $6,300
- Your unearned income exceeds $1,050
- Your total income is more than the greater of $1,050 or earned income - up to $6,300 - plus $350.
For example, you must file a tax return if you had $4,000 in earned income from a job and $500 in unearned income from an interest payment because your total income of $4,500 is greater than your earned income plus $350, or $4,350.
Choosing to File
Even if you don't have to file a tax return, you can still do so to claim any tax refund you're owed. Taxes aren't normally withheld from interest, dividend and capital gain income, so if these were your only sources of income, filing a return probably won't earn you a refund. But if you worked at a job during the year, chances are that your employer withheld a portion of your wages to cover federal and state income tax. You'll get a refund when you file your return if your employer withheld too much.
How to File
Dependents can file Form 1040, Form 1040A or 1040-EZ. When the form asks if someone else can claim you as a dependent, indicate that they can. You're not entitled to claim a personal exemption because your parents are claiming you, and your standard deduction will also be slightly less than what other taxpayers can claim.
If you're not comfortable preparing your own tax return, your parents can do it for you. They can even sign it on your behalf if you're unable to do so yourself.