A:

This may come as a surprise to many individuals, but not everyone needs to file a federal tax return.

According to the IRS, many individuals who do not need to file tax returns still do, because they are not aware of the requirements.

To determine whether you need to file a federal tax return, you must first look at your gross income. In general, you need not file a federal tax return if your tax filing status and age and you gross income is up to the amounts listed below.

However, even if your gross income is not more than the amounts indicated in the below chart, you may still need to file a return under certain circumstances.


Filing Status* Amount
Single $9,350
65 or Older $10,750
Head of Household $12,050
65 or Older $13,450
Married Filing Jointly $18,700
Not Living with Spouse at End of Year $3,650
One Spouse 65 or Older $19,800
Both Spouses 65 or Older $20,900
Married Filing Separately $3,650
*If you are the dependent of another taxpayer, see the instrustioncs for Form 1040 for more information on whether you must file a return.

You may still need to file, if:

  • You are eligible for a tax refund,
  • You are eligible for the earned income tax credit (EITC),
  • You are a self-employed individual and had more than $400 in earnings from self-employment during the year,
  • You owe an excise tax on retirement plan assets or
  • You owe social security and Medicare tax on tips that you did not report to your employer.


The key is to understand that you may not need to file a tax return. However, in order to make an absolute determination, you must look beyond your age, tax filing status and gross income.

Detailed information is available in IRS Publication 17 and the instructions for filing Form 1040.

To read more frequently asked tax questions, How can I tell if I'm eligible for an EITC?, I sold my house, can I exclude the gain from my income?, How can I make sure I'm ready to file my taxes? and Common Tax Questions Answered.

Question answered by Denise Appleby, CISP, CRC, CRPS, CRSP, APA

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