Does a Child of 16 Who Has a Job Need to File a Tax Return?

by Alia Nikolakopulos

A 16-year-old child who works may be required to file an income tax return at the end of the year, depending on how much money he makes. Even if the teenager is required to file, his parents may still qualify to claim him as a dependent, although the child will still be responsible for submitting his own return. Working children not required to file may still find it beneficial to submit a return if federal income taxes were withheld from pay.

Earned Income

As of publication, a 16-year-old child who is not blind and has earned income under $5,950 for the year does not need to file. If the child is blind, he does not need to file if his annual earned income is less than $7,400. Earned income includes wages earned from a job or self-employment.

Unearned Income

As of tax year 2012, a working 16-year-old child must file a tax return if he has unearned income over $950. If the child is blind, he must file if his unearned income is over $2,400. Unearned income includes interest and dividend income, capital gains and survivor annuities.

Gross Income

Gross income is a combination of earned and unearned income. The limits established for each category require a 16-year-old child to file a return if either limit is reached. However, working children may have income from both categories. In this instance, the child must use the Filing Requirement Worksheet in IRS Publication 929 to determine if the 16-year-old must file a return. When both types of income are received by the child, it is possible that a return is required even if the child has earned income of less than $5,950.

Forms and Refunds

A working 16-year-old child may be the dependent of another taxpayer. If the child has a filing requirement, he can use any of the 1040 forms to file his return, but the simplest form to use is the 1040EZ. Dependents required to file will check a box on the 1040 form to indicate they are the dependent of someone else. Even if the child does not have a filing requirement, he may choose to file a return to receive a refund of federal income taxes withheld from his pay during the year.

About the Author

With a background in taxation and financial consulting, Alia Nikolakopulos has over a decade of experience resolving tax and finance issues. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent and has been a writer for these topics since 2010. Nikolakopulos is pursuing Bachelor of Science in accounting at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.