The Internal Revenue Service requires anyone who owes taxes to file a return as well as anyone who makes over a certain amount of earned income annually. Income tax after age 70 may decrease as your income decreases, but the requirement to pay taxes is still there. The way you file your return may change as you age, because your income sources will change.
No matter what age you are, you will be required to file taxes if your income exceeds the minimum threshold levels established by the IRS. If you are over the age of 65, you will be required to file a tax return if your income exceeds IRS minimums.
No Tax Exemption for Age 65 and Over
While there is no age 65 tax credit, you will only have to file a return if your gross income is more than the
Some Taxpayers Must File a Return Even If Below Income Requirements
You must file a tax return in some circumstances even if you don't meet the income threshold. If you're over 65 and take taxable distributions from a retirement account, such as a traditional IRA, you must file a return. Filing also is required if you received advance premium credit for health insurance bought via a Health Insurance Marketplace, or if you had self-employment income of $400 or more. You'll need to submit a return to the IRS when you owe alternative minimum tax or unpaid income tax, Social Security tax or Medicare tax.
For many over 65, Social Security benefits aren't taxable and don't count as income for tax filing purposes. However, if you have enough income from other sources, part of your Social Security benefits may be taxable and you will have to report the taxable portion to the IRS. To check if this rule applies to you, divide your annual Social Security benefit in half. Add the result to other income. If you file as single and the total tops $25,000, some Social Security benefits might be taxable. For couples filing jointly, the threshold is $34,000.
2018 Filing Requirements
Beginning with the 2018 tax year, the filing requirements are simplified. If you're single and your earned income and adjusted gross income both exceed $12,000 (the standard deduction), you must file a tax return. This is true no matter how old you are. If you're married and file a joint tax return, and you live in the same house as your spouse, you must file that joint tax return if your combined earned income and AGI each exceed $24,000, regardless of age.
2017 Filing Requirements
For the 2017 tax year, which is unaffected by the new tax law, your age does change your filing requirements. For 2017 if you're 65 or older, you must file a return if your income exceeds the following amounts:
- Single filing status: $11,950
- Married filing joint return, spouse under 65: $22,050
- Married filing joint return, spouse is 65 or older: $23,300
- Married filing separately: $4,050
- Head of household: $14,950
- Widow or widower: $18,000
Some Ways to Cut Taxes
Seniors with limited incomes may qualify for the elderly or disabled tax credit. Here are some additional
- Medical and dental costs: Qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses in excess of 10 percent of your adjusted gross income are deductible if you are 65 or older.
- Tax-exempt profits from sale of a home: As long as you've lived in a home for two of the last five years, the first $500,000 in profit from sale of the property is tax-exempt for married couples filing a joint return. The exemption for singles is $250,000.
- Roth IRA distributions: Unlike distributions from traditional IRAs, qualified withdrawals from a Roth IRA are tax free.
- IRS: Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax
- Turbo Tax: When Does a Senior on Social Security Stop Filing Taxes?
- Social Security Administration: Benefits Planner: Income Taxes And Your Social Security Benefits
- Forbes: IRS Announces 2018 Tax Rates, Standard Deductions, Exemption Amounts And More
- Cornell Law School: U.S. Tax Code Section 63
- Cornell Law School: U.S. Tax Code Section 6012
- Kiplinger: How Your Social Security Benefits Are Taxed
- IRS. "Publication 501 Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information," Pages 2-5. Accessed March 20, 2020.
- Tax Foundation. "2019 Tax Brackets." Accessed March 20, 2020.
- IRS. "Filing Status," Page 7. Accessed March 20, 2020.
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, W D Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about business, personal finance and careers. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.