Who is Required to File Taxes?

By Tracy Lum , last updated July 10, 2011
Filing taxes is a dreaded and often daunting task, even in the age of electronic filing. Requirements vary for the federal government, your state government, and even your local government, but before you stress, you should definitely check if you’re even required to file taxes for a given year.
Whether or not you have to file taxes (for most people) depends on your marital status, your age, whether or not you are a head of household, and how much your gross income was. The minimum thresholds on gross income for filing taxes vary based on these categories. Gross income includes any money, services, goods or property received that is not exempt from taxes. It also includes any payments coming from outside the United States.
For example, a single person who was under 65 at the end of 2010 would have to file a federal tax return if his or her income was greater than $9,350, but a single person older than 65 wouldn’t have to file a tax return unless his or her gross income was greater than $10,750. Married people can file jointly or separately. A chart containing other thresholds can be found at www.irs.gov.
Tax rules differ for children and other dependents. Age is a determining factor, as are blindness and gross income. If you are a dependent, the minimum thresholds for having to file a tax return are generally lower than they are for independents. Again, an informative checklist is supplied by the IRS to help individuals determine whether or not they must file. Children under 19 or full-time students under age 24 do not have to file a tax return as long as the parent or guardian uses Form 8814 and includes the income of the child on the form.
In addition, a tax return must be filed in certain special circumstances. For instance, if you owe special taxes such as the alternative minimum tax, taxes on qualified plans like an IRA, or household employment taxes. Moreover, advance earned income credit or having net self-employment earnings greater than $400 are situations in which a person must file a tax return. In terms of church or church-related organizations, if you receive $108.28 or more as payment, you should also file a return. Another cause for filing a return for a given year is if you sold your home. You should also file a return if you earned tips that weren't reported to your employer and if you owe social security and Medicare tax.
Even if you are not required to file a return, sometimes it will be beneficial to file one anyway in order to receive a federal income tax withheld refund. Some examples of special tax credits include making work pay credit, first-time homebuyer credit, additional child credit, and American opportunity credit. Other examples are credit for federal tax on fuels, health coverage credit, and adoption credit.
For state taxes, each state has its own requirements which can be found on the individual state’s Department of the Treasury website under the Division of Taxation.
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