How Many Months Do You Have to Work to File Taxes?

by Tara Thomas ; Updated August 24, 2018

Whether or not you have to file a tax return doesn’t depend on how many months of the year you work, but rather on how much you earn in total. As far as the IRS is concerned, the only thing that matters is how much you made, not how long it took you to make it. If you only had one job and did not earn a large sum, you might not have to file a tax return, but this is not the case for everyone. Regardless if you have not been filing taxes for 10 years because you had no tax obligation, or you did not work a full year, it could still be in your best interest to file.


  • The IRS is only concerned with how much money you made, and not how long it took you to make it. If you earned more than a certain income for your filing status and age, you may owe taxes.

Minimum Income To File taxes

For the tax year 2017, taxpayers who are married and file separately are required to pay taxes after earning at least $4,050, while married couples filing jointly have a filing threshold of $20,800. Single individuals under the age of 65 must file when their income exceeds $10,400. If they file as head of household, that minimum increases to $13,400.

Dependents and Seasonal Employment

Summer jobs are often the first employment that young people have, and figuring if they need to file a tax return is often confusing to both the workers and their parents. Often, students are claimed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns, and dependency status changes the way income is taxed.

If you’re claimed as a dependent on someone’s return, you are still required to file taxes if you earn more than the minimum income requirements set forth by the IRS annually. The minimum incomes for dependent categories for 2017 are as follows:

Earning Thresholds for Single Dependents

  • Under 65 years of age and not blind – more than $6,350
  • 65 years of age and older or blind –  more than $7,900
  • Blind and 65 years of age or older –  more than $9,450

Earning Thresholds for Married Dependents

  • Under 65 years of age and not blind –  more than $6,350
  • 65 years of age and older or blind –  more than $7,600
  • Blind and 65 years of age or older – more than  $8,850

Because you’re claimed as a dependent by a parent or someone else, you cannot claim a personal exemption for yourself. Also, the person who claims you as a dependent cannot include your income with their own when they file their tax return.

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Self-Employed Workers

Self-employed and independent contractor taxpayers must file a tax return when their net earnings from self-employment exceed $400. Before you can decide if you are required to file a tax return, you must figure out the net profit or loss from your business by subtracting your business expenses from your business income.

If your business shows a net profit of $400 or more, you must file a tax return. You may want to file a tax return even if you show a loss on your business, particularly if you have other income. You can usually deduct the loss from gross income on page 1 of Form 1040.

Unlike employees, independent contractors have to pay self-employment tax in addition to federal income taxes. This self-employment tax, known as SECA or Self-Employment Contributions Act, includes contributions to Social Security and Medicare. These payments and estimated income tax payments are typically made quarterly as the year progresses. A quick visit to the IRS Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center website provides helpful interactive tax tools, publications and other information.

Claiming Your Tax Credits

Even if you aren’t required to file based upon the minimum income thresholds, you might want to do so anyway. While you may not incur a penalty for not filing taxes if you had no obligation to do so, the IRS has several refundable tax credits designed to assist low- and middle-income wage earners in shouldering some of the rising costs of living. If your tax liability or obligation is at zero, you may still be eligible. However, if you do not file your return, you cannot claim them, and you will not receive the refund you might be owed. Also, if you had any taxes withheld from your paycheck, you won’t be able to get those back unless you file. A complete list of tax credits is available on the IRS website that can help you determine if you qualify.

About the Author

Tara Thomas is a Los Angeles-based writer and avid traveler. Her articles appear in various online publications, including Sapling, PocketSense, Zacks, Livestrong, Modern Mom and SF Gate. She began her writing career in college authoring grant proposals for a Southern California marine science laboratory, which helped her develop a lifelong passion for environmentalism. She has a Bachelor of Science in marine biology from California State University, Long Beach. Thomas is also an event consultant/planner, spent 10 years as a mortgage consultant and enjoys writing on the subjects of travel and personal finance.

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