Because the Internal Revenue Service won't accept tax returns that have zero taxable income, if you're a single housewife and didn't earn money during the year, you can't file a tax return. Depending on your living situation, however, you might be able to file a joint return or qualify as another taxpayer's dependent.
Married Filing Jointly
Odds are, if you're a housewife, you're married, and you should file taxes with your husband. Couples that have only one spouse who works should file jointly to take advantage of the tax breaks offered by the IRS. Both spouses don't have to work to file jointly. Married couples receive a larger standard deduction and are taxed at a lower tax rate, which will significantly decrease your tax liability.
Single with Unearned Income
If you don't work and aren't married, but receive income from other sources, such as unemployment or interest income, you might have to file a return. As of 2013, if you're under 65 and single with no kids, you have to file a tax return if your gross income is more than $10,000. If you're over 65, you have to file a return if your unearned income is more than $11,450. If you're single, have kids, qualify for head of household and your unearned income is more than $12,850, you have to file.
No Income but Shacking Up
If you and your significant other are shacking up, but you stay home and take care of the house, the IRS won't allow you to file a joint return with your boyfriend. To file jointly, you must be married. Depending on the situation, however, your boyfriend might be able to claim you as a dependent. To qualify, you must live together the entire year and your boyfriend must pay for at least half your support. In addition, you can't earn more than the annual exemption rate, which is $3,900 as of 2013. If you meet these requirements and your relationship doesn't violate local or state laws, your boyfriend can claim you as a dependent. By claiming you, he'll have lower taxable income and essentially owe less income tax.
Although some states recognize same-sex marriages, the IRS doesn’t as of 2013. Regardless of whether you're legally married to your same-sex partner, you can't file a joint tax return. If you earned little or no income and you meet the requirements of dependency, your partner might be able to claim you as a dependent, as long as the relationship doesn't violate any state laws. For example, if you live in Mississippi, Florida or Michigan, you can't live together if you are unmarried and involved in an intimate relationship.
With the exception of same-sex marriages, if the state recognizes a marriage, so does the IRS. Common-law marriage is recognized in 17 states, including Alabama, Iowa, Rhode Island and Texas. Couples involved in a common law marriage can file a joint tax return and receive the same benefits as those who are legally married.
- TurboTax: Do I Need to File a 2012 Tax Return With the IRS?
- Internal Revenue Service: 2013 Annual Inflation Adjustments
- Internal Revenue Service: Publication 17 -- Personal Exemptions and Dependents
- Internal Revenue Service: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Same-Sex Couples
- DCist: Virginia Senate Considers Legalizing Unmarried Couples
- Internal Revenue Service: Publication 17 -- Filing Status
- Unmarried.org: Common Law Marriage Fact Sheet
Angela M. Wheeland specializes in topics related to taxation, technology, gaming and criminal law. She has contributed to several websites and serves as the lead content editor for a construction-related website. Wheeland holds an Associate of Arts in accounting and criminal justice. She has owned and operated her own income tax-preparation business since 2006.