Whether you’re a teenager earning your first paycheck or an older adult cruising toward retirement, it can be tricky determining when exactly you need to file your taxes.

There are five main questions that help you determine the minimum salary you need to file taxes:

  • How old are you?
  • What is your filing status?
  • Are you blind?
  • What is your gross income?
  • Is someone else claiming you as a dependent?

Once you have these answers, it’s relatively simple to figure out how much you need to make to file taxes. Remember that gross income is calculated as the total money you make before any taxes or deductions are taken out. If you are 65 years or older you may have to pay taxes even on social security, so it’s necessary to take that into account when deciding whether or not to file.

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Disclaimer: the following information is based off the 2017 tax year and will be updated each new tax season.
Use the links below to get quickly to the answers you need:

What is the Minimum Amount of Income Required to File Taxes?

The minimum salary to file taxes changes each year, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the new requirements each time tax season rolls around since there are penalties for filing taxes late. Below are the requirements for the 2017 tax year:

Filing Status Your Age at End of 2017 Minimum Income to File Taxes
Single Under 65 $10,400
Single 65 or older $11,950
Married filing jointly Both spouses under 65 $20,800
Married filing jointly One spouse 65 or older $22,050
Married filing jointly Both spouses 65 or older $23,300
Married filing separately Any age $4,050
Head of household Under 65 $13,400
Head of household 65 or older $14,950
Widow(er) with dependent child Under 65 $16,750
Widow(er) with dependent child 65 or older $18,000

The minimum salary requirements for dependents to file taxes also differ. It gets a little trickier when you’re a dependent because you have to calculate both unearned income (such as investments) and earned income.

Single dependents under 65 and not blind are required to file taxes if:

  • Earned income exceeded $6,350
  • Unearned income exceeded $1,050
  • Gross income was more than the larger of $1,050 or earned income up to $6,000 plus $350

Single dependents 65 years or older or blind are required to file taxes if:

  • Earned income exceeded $7,600 ($8,850 if both filer and dependent are 65 or older and blind)
  • Unearned income exceeded $2,600 ($4,150 if both filer and dependent are 65 or older and blind)
  • Gross income was more than the larger of $2,600 ($4,150 if both filer and dependent are 65 or older and blind) or earned income up to $6,000 plus $1,900 ($3,450 if both filer and dependent are 65 or older and blind)

Married dependents under 65 and not blind are required to file taxes if:

  • Earned income exceeded $6,350
  • Unearned income exceeded $1,050
  • Gross income was at least $5 and your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions
  • Gross income was more than the larger of $1,050 or earned income up to $6,000 plus $350

Married dependents 65 years of older or blind are required to file taxes if:

  • Earned income exceeded $7,600 ($8,850 if both filer and dependent are 65 or older and blind)
  • Unearned income exceeded $2,300 ($3,550 if both filer and dependent are 65 or older and blind)
  • Gross income was at least $5 and your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions
  • Gross income was more than the larger of $2,300 ($3,550 if both 65 or older and blind) or earned income up to $6,000 plus $1,600 ($2,850 if both 65 or older and blind)

The minimum income requirement to file taxes are the combined total of your standard deduction and personal exemption. If you claim the standard deduction, take note that you cannot itemize deductions as well.

How Can I Get an Earned Income Tax Credit?

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a refundable credit that reduces your tax bill dollar-for-dollar, unlike a deduction which reduces the amount of taxable income you have. This credit was created to help supplement salaries for low-income individuals and can be claimed whether or not you have children.

But similar to determining your minimum income requirement to file taxes, it can be complicated to determine your eligibility. To learn more about IRS Notice 797 and the Earned Income Tax Credit, visit the IRS website.

Should I File a Return Even If I Don’t Have To?

If you make less than the minimum salary requirements to file taxes, there’s no need to file. However, there are a few possible reasons to file even if you fall below the minimum requirement line:

  • You may still have had some federal income tax withheld, so you’ll want to file a return to get that back
  • You made at least $400 through self-employment endeavors
  • You may qualify for tax credits that can be treated as a refund even if it exceeds the amount you owe
  • You made estimate tax payments
  • You can protect yourself from future IRS audits by starting the timer on the statute of limitations (which is typically three years of past returns)

A reminder: if you choose to file federal taxes but fail to pay off other debts (such as state taxes or student loans) you could receive a tax offset that would jeopardize your ability to receive a return.

Do Students Have to File a Taxes?

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Going to school and juggling classes is already stressful, so it’s important to know whether you need to add doing taxes into the mix as well. If you (the student) can be claimed as a dependent, you’ll need to file taxes if:

  • Your earned income is more than $6,350
  • Your unearned income is more than $1,050
  • Your business or self-employment net income is at least $400
  • Your gross income exceeds the larger of $1,050 or earned income up to $6,000 plus $350

How Can I File a Tax Return?

If you’ve discovered you earn the minimum amount to file taxes and want to get a tax return, you’ll need to fill out a Form 1040. On this form you will report your total salary and wages to determine how much money you will get back from a federal tax return, or whether you owe additional money. If this seems daunting, you can take advantage of tax preparation services to help you with the return or any other document you need to send to the IRS.