How Much Can a Retired Person Make Without Filing Taxes on It?

by Linda Richard ; Updated July 27, 2017

The Internal Revenue Service has different requirements for people 65 and older, reflecting a little more leniency in filing tax returns for senior citizens. The IRS looks at the source of your income as well as your age to determine whether it requires you to file a tax return. Collateral issues include recapture taxes you owe the IRS, Social Security or Medicare taxes owed on income and household employment taxes owed for an employee. These collateral issues require filing a federal tax return.


If someone else claims you as a dependent and you are over age 65, your status as married or single is relevant. Income counts as earned and unearned. Unearned income is from interest, dividends and Social Security or a pension. If you are single, you can have $2,350 in unearned income without filing federal income taxes on 2010 income. If you are over age 65 and blind, you can receive $3,750 annually in unearned income without filing a tax return. If you are married and over age 65 and someone claims you as a dependent, you can have unearned income of $2,050. Your unearned income can be $3,150 if you're over 65 and blind. The earned income limit for singles over 65 is $7,100 or $8,500 if you're both 65 and blind. Married dependents with earned income over $6,800 must file a federal tax return. That earned income figure is $7,900 if you are over 65 and blind and you are filing for 2010.

Gross Income

You can review your gross income to help decide if you need to file a federal income tax return. Your gross income is all income from all taxable sources. Social Security is taxable only if your combined income totals more than $25,000. The IRS adds half of your Social Security annual benefits plus nontaxable interest to your adjusted gross income to arrive at combined income. If you are 65 or over and single, gross income over $10,750 requires a federal tax return for the year 2010. If you are married filing separately, you must file a tax return with gross income over $3,650 for the year. If you are married filing jointly and only one spouse is over age 65, gross income calculations over $19,800 require a tax return. If you are both over 65, $20,900 in gross income requires a tax return on 2010 income.

Other Circumstances

You must file a federal tax return if you earn $5 if you are married filing separately and your spouse itemizes deductions. If you operate a business, you must file a tax return if you have $400 in net income. If you are a church employee or have earned wages from a church-controlled organization, you must file a federal income tax return if your income exceeds $108.28. If you owe the IRS any special taxes or additional taxes on a retirement plan, health savings account or tuition plan, you must file a federal tax return on your 2010 income.


It is often to your advantage to file a federal income tax return. Seniors receive an extra exemption for age, and credits may apply. Some credits, like earned income, may refund more than you paid in taxes for the year. State income taxes are easy to file once you complete the federal form. Assistance is available with free software online. AARP sets up tax centers in 7,000 locations to assist seniors with free filing of federal taxes, and the AARP website answers tax questions for seniors.

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.