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

by Tara Thomas ; Updated March 15, 2018

Whether 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. When it comes to the IRS, 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.

Minimum Earning Threshold for Traditional Taxpayers

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. 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 has been a writer and traveler since 1997. Her articles appear in various online publications. She also has experience authoring grant proposals for a Southern California marine science laboratory, which helped her develop a lifelong interest in environmentalism. Thomas is an event planner, has a Bachelor of Science in marine biology from California State University, Long Beach, and worked as a mortgage consultant since 1998.

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