When Don't You Have to File Taxes?

by Tiffany Garden ; Updated July 27, 2017
There's no penalty for filing a tax return if you are not required to.

While many people are required to file taxes, you do not always need to file a tax return. The requirement to file your income taxes depends on your income, credit and deduction amounts. You can still file a tax return even if you aren't required to, but you don't need to if you are exempt from filing.


The main factor that determines whether you are required to file a federal income tax return is your gross income. Gross income is your total income before taxes and deductions are taken out. The maximum gross income is dependent on your filing status and age. Single filers younger than 65 have a limit of $9,750, while older-than-65 single filers have a limit of $11,200. Married filing jointly status combined with a less than 65 age has a limit of $19,500. If the married couple has one spouse younger than 65 and one older, the limit is $20,650. Finally, if both are older than 65, the limit is $21,800. The married, filing separately limit is $3,800. Self-employed individuals must file if self-employment income exceeds $400.

Qualifying Gross Income

The income used to determine whether you hit a filing limit uses all taxable income. Examples of taxable income include money earned through a wage job, tips, interest, rent and the sale of goods and services. Income that is exempt from taxation is not generally used for your gross income numbers.


If you are claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return, such as your parents, you have different income limits than the ones listed above. The limits are much lower, since you're typically not paying for essentials such as room and board. Generally, the filing limit is $5,950 as of 2012.

State Taxes

State taxes do not have the same filing requirements as federal state income taxes. The minimum income to file varies from state to state, and some states don't have an income tax at all. Generally you need to file state taxes, if your state has an income tax, if you have worked in the state during the year.

Reasons to File

You have three different situations where you may want to file your tax return, even if you aren't required by law to do so. One of the most common is when you are owed a tax refund due to money paid in through your employer. You may also want to consider filing your tax return if you qualify for the earned income credit, or you qualify for other credits that are refunded directly to you.

About the Author

Tiffany Garden has been a freelance writer since 2002, working in the commercial copywriting field. She has been published in a number of technical and gaming magazines, as well as on numerous websites. She also runs her own websites on a number of subjects, runs a handcrafted jewelry business and is a CompTIA A+ Certified computer technician.

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