How Much Untaxed Income Can I Make Before I Have to Report It?

by Tara Thomas ; Updated August 24, 2018
Individuals making below a certain amount of money are not required to file a tax return or pay income taxes.

Income is only untaxed when you aren’t required to report it to the IRS. If you meet certain thresholds for income reporting requirements, then the IRS expects you to report the income and possibly pay taxes on it. These thresholds depend on whether the income is from self-employment or if you can be claimed on someone else’s return as a dependent. Knowing how much you can earn before being required to file a tax return ensures you remain in good standing with Uncle Sam. Even if you aren’t required to file, doing so is still a good idea – you could be due a refund.

Maximum Earnings Before Paying Tax

Each year the IRS releases new thresholds that determine whether you must file taxes on the income you’ve earned. These thresholds are adjusted for inflation and vary depending on your age and filing status. If you earn less than the amount designated for your filing status and age, then you are not required to file a tax return. However, if you want the refund of federal income tax withheld from your paycheck during the year or you want to take advantage of refundable tax credits you may be eligible for, you must file a return.

Here are the 2017 income thresholds you need to meet or exceed before you’re required to file taxes:


  • Age 65 and under – $10,400
  • Age 65 and older – $11,950

Married Filing Jointly

  • Both spouses under age 65 – $20,800
  • One spouse age 65 and older – $22,050
  • Both spouses age 65 years and older – $23,300

Married Filing Separately

  • Any age – $4,050

Head of Household Status

  • Age 65 and under – $13,400
  • Age 65 and older – $14,950

Qualifying Widow/er

  • Age 65 and under – $16,750
  • Age 65 and over – $18,000

Earned Income Filing Requirements for Dependents

Dependents are people who can be claimed on another person’s tax return. Although someone else can claim a dependent, this does not mean that the dependent isn’t responsible for filing taxes on her income. The filing thresholds for dependents are typically lower than those for taxpayers who cannot be claimed on someone else’s tax return, and they are also adjusted annually for inflation. IRS Publication 929, Tax Rules for Children and Dependents, which is on the IRS website, details the filing requirements and rules for dependents.

The following are 2017 income fling requirements for dependents:

Single Dependents

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

Married Dependents

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

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Self-Employed Filing Requirements

Self-employed and freelance taxpayers have the lowest income threshold before they must report their income to the IRS. If you earn more than $400 during the year, you have to file a tax return. This $400 1099 minimum amount applies across the board regardless of your age, dependency or filing status. You must report your self-employed earnings that exceed this amount to the IRS. Because the IRS has extensive rules and requirements for independent contractors, it is a good idea to consult with a tax adviser who can provide further guidance on self-employed filing requirements.

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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