What Is the Minimum Income to Pay Taxes?

by Linda Richard ; Updated September 11, 2015
The filing requirements and minimum income required to file changes each year.

The Internal Revenue Service provides forms and regulations to make it easy to pay federal income taxes. Tables, rules, exclusions, deductions, dependents and credits all help determine if you need to pay taxes, or if you need to file a federal income tax return this year. The determination is annual, just like the potential taxes.

Minimum Income for Paying Federal Income Taxes

Taxable income is the basis for federal income taxes, and this is not your gross income as reported on the W-2 or 1099. This is the total of your wages and taxable interest, along with other income, subtracting the deductions and exemptions to which you are entitled. In 2012 the deductions and exemptions total $9,750 for single taxpayers claiming themselves as a dependent. Under the 2012 Tax Table, after you subtract the deductions and exemptions and arrive at a taxable income figure, you can make $5 without taxation. This is true for singles, married filing jointly, separately, or as head of household. Taxation starts at $5 in taxable income, and $5 to $15 in taxable income produces $1 in federal income tax owed.

Minimum Income for Filing Federal Income Taxes

The minimum income for filing a federal income tax return may be as little as $108.28 if you had church employee income or $400 in net earnings, if you are self-employed. Filing rules for single dependents in 2012 was for earned income over $5,950 or unearned income over $950. Married dependents have the same limitations, but if you file separately from your spouse and your spouse itemizes deductions, you must file if you earned $5. Singles under age 65 could make $9,750 in 2012 and singles over 65 could make $11,200 without filing a federal tax return. A married couple under age 65 could make $19,500, a couple with both over age 65 could make $21,800 and a couple with one over and one under age 65 could make $20,650 without filing a tax return in 2012. Married filing separately at any age starts at $3,800. Other rules require filing a federal tax return include special taxes owed.

Why File a Federal Income Tax Return

If your income is low, you may qualify for Earned Income Credit or a credit for attending college. Advantages exist for filing a federal income tax return, particularly if you need to prove your income or if your state bases income tax on the federal figures. If you have had federal taxes withheld during the year, you need to file a federal income tax return to get the money returned to you. The tax return is a reconciliation, returning overpayments and requesting payments due. You may be jointly liable for filing taxes if you are married, even if your spouse had the only income.

How to File Your Federal Income Taxes

Services are available to assist in federal income tax preparation. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or VITA operates a free service in communities throughout the United States to assist low-income individuals and families with federal income taxes. These volunteers are trained and most locations e-file for free.

About the Author

Linda Richard has been a legal writer and antiques appraiser for more than 25 years, and has been writing online for more than 12 years. Richard holds a bachelor's degree in English and business administration. She has operated a small business for more than 20 years. She and her husband enjoy remodeling old houses and are currently working on a 1970s home.

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