Do I Need to File Income Taxes If All I Have Is Interest Income?

by Jason Van Steenwyk ; Updated July 27, 2017

You may need to file an income tax return, even if all you received was interest income last year. The answer depends on exactly how much income you received, from what source, your filing status, and whether someone else can claim you as a dependent on his income tax return.

Interest Income

Generally, if you have interest income of at least $950, you must file an income tax return even if you had no earned income. You should receive an IRS Form 1099-INT from your financial institution, listing the income you received that may be taxable. Do not count interest received from municipal bonds or municipal bond funds, unless you receive income from private activity bonds and are subject to the alternative minimum tax.

Unearned Income

Unearned income is the money you received from taxable interest, dividends and capital gains. If you are under age 65 and someone else can claim you as a dependent on his taxes, you must file a tax return if your unearned income was at least $950. You must report income from interest even if you do not receive a Form 1099-INT.

Other Considerations

You must file an income tax return if you owe any alternative minimum tax, or if you owe taxes for household employment. If this is the only tax you owe, however, you can file Schedule H by itself. You do not have to file a Form 1040. You must file if you sold a home. If your interest received was less than $1,500, you can use Form 1040EZ. Otherwise, you must file a Form 1040 or 1040A.

You Should File Anyway

It may make sense for you to file taxes, regardless of your income. You may be able to qualify for a number of valuable tax benefits, such as the senior tax credit or the child tax credit, depending on your situation.

About the Author

Jason Van Steenwyk has been writing professionally since 1998. A former staff reporter for "Mutual Funds Magazine," he has been published in "Wealth and Retirement Planner," "Annuity Selling Guide," "Registered Rep." "Bankrate.com" and "Senior Market Advisor." He holds a Bachelor of Arts in humanities from the University of Southern California.