At What Income Are You Required to File a Tax Return?

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Do you need to file a tax return?

As the new tax season approaches, it is good to know what your filing status will be and if you even need to file taxes.

How do you determine if you need to file a tax return?

I’ll answer that question for your in today’s article. I’ll also breakdown moments when you’re not required to file a tax return.

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Do you need to file a tax return with couple looking worried at tax return talking to accountant

When should I file a tax return?

  • If you are a U.S. citizen, or a resident alien
  • Your gross income (the amount of money you make before anything is taken out for taxes or other deductions) is above the recommended amount listed in the chart below
  • Your filing status and age meet the requirements on the chart below

Filing Requirement Chart For Most Taxpayers

IF your filing status is. . .AND at the end of 2020
you were . . .
THEN file a return if your gross income was at least. . .
Singleunder 65$12,400
65 or older$14,050
Head of householdunder 65$18,650
65 or older$20,300
Married filing jointlyunder 65 (both spouses)$24,800
65 or older (one spouse)$26,100
65 or older (both spouses)$27,400
Married filing separatelyany age (if your spouse itemizes deductions)$5
Qualifying widow(er)
with dependent child
under 65$24,800
65 or older$26,100
***You must file a return if you had gross income of any amount

You may have to pay a penalty if you are required to file a tax return and fail to do so. Also, in certain instances if you fail to file a tax return you may face criminal prosecution.

Note: You are required to file a tax return even if you don’t owe any taxes.

What is required for me to file?

Usually if your gross income is at least the amount on the table above for the age and filing status listed, you should file a tax return.

What are some exceptions not on the requirements table?

  • If you can be claimed as a dependent of someone else, the gross income is usually less than what is shown in the chart above.
  • You’re self-employed, then you must file if your net income is more than $400.
  • Your dependent child is blind or has investment income, then special rules may apply.
  • If any members of your household are enrolled in the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare and receive advance payments for the premium tax credit then they must file.
Tax Checklist Deductions
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Should I file even if I’m not required?

If you are not required to file, you can still file a tax return to claim a refund.

For example, you should file a return if one of the following is true:

  • Income tax was withheld from your pay
  • Made estimated tax payments for the year
  • Had an overpayment from a previous year that’s applied to this year’s estimated tax payments
  • Eligible for the Earned Income Credit (EIC).
  • Qualify for the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC).
  • Qualify for the Health Insurance Premium Tax Credit (ACA).

Example 1: Jim and Pam are married and plan to file a joint return. Jim is 50 and had a gross income of $16,000 for the year. Pam is 45 and her gross income was $2,000 for the year. Since their combined gross income is $18,000 which is less than required gross income minimum of $24,800 for a couple married and filing jointly, they are not required to file a tax return.

Note: If taxes were withheld from Jim and Pam’s pay, then they can still file a tax return to claim a refund.

Example 2: Hazel, age 30, is single with no dependents. Her gross income for 2020 is $12,750. She must file a tax return because her gross income is more than $12,400. This exceeds the minimum amount required for a person filing as single.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article helped you gain some control of your tax plan this year. Remember not to stress out. Don’t forget to check out Tax Forms page for any additional online tax checklists and forms you may need this year.

Do you have to file a tax return? File online with this laptop today.
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If you want more handy tax tips, then feel free to check out my latest articles here.  You can sign up to get on the waiting list if you’d like to file with me.

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Until the next money adventure, take care!


The Handy Tax Guy Tax Service

Disclaimer Statement: All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. The Handy Tax Guy makes no absolute representation of the correctness, mistakes, omissions, delays, appropriateness, or legitimacy of any information on this site. **Note: Each client circumstance will vary on a case-by-case basis**

(Original Article Date: August 24, 2017/Updated January 9, 2021)

Nikida Metellus

Nikida Metellus is a financial freedom advocate, author, and the reimagined voice behind ThemeParkHipster.com, now focused on helping you achieve a debt-free life and financial success. Based in Orlando, Florida, she combines her love for theme parks with actionable financial strategies, offering a unique perspective on balancing fun and finances. As the author of Complete Tax Planning Guide, she has now expanded her expertise to guide you on the road to financial freedom. Co-founder of Bramework and a coffee enthusiast at heart, Nikida is committed to empowering you with practical tips and insights to manage your money wisely. When she's not blogging or exploring Florida's attractions, she enjoys quality time with her husband and two daughters. Welcome to your journey toward a financially free life!

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