You may think if you make less than $10,000 a year, you don't need to file a tax return. In most cases, you're right. But before you toss those W-2s, you may want to take a closer look. Many people who make under $10,000 still have to file income taxes, especially those who are claimed as dependents by others and those who have self-employment income. And even if you aren't required to file, you still may be able to claim a tidy refund check.
The Internal Revenue Service provides income guidelines to let people know when they have to file a tax return. If you are single, under 65 and are not a dependent of someone else, you don't have to file a return until your taxable gross income reaches $9,750. If you are married or qualify as head of household, the minimum amount is even higher: $19,500 for married couples and $12,500, for heads of household. But if you are married and your spouse files a separate return, you must file your own return even if your income reaches only $3,700. For people 65 and over, the threshold is even higher due to their increased standard deduction.
For most people, gross income consists of their job wages reported on a Form W-2 plus whatever interest they earned on their savings and checking accounts. But if you have any other taxable income, you must include those amounts as well. Examples of taxable income include stock dividends, gains from the sale of stocks or other investments, tip income, the part of scholarships and grants used to pay living expenses, self-employment income and possibly part of any Social Security payments.
If you do any type of work for yourself or run a small business, you are required to file a tax return if you netted at least $400 during the year. This can include any type of work or business where you were not considered an employee. It can be consulting work that you do as a contract employee, or it can be something as simple as babysitting. Sometimes you will get a Form 1099 that shows the amount of self-employment income you made, but you are required to report the income and pay Medicare and Social Security taxes even if you don't get a Form 1099.
Many people believe that if they can be claimed as a dependent by their parents or anyone else, they don't have to file taxes. In fact the opposite is true. Dependents have even stricter filing requirements, and must file if either their earned income exceeds $5,950 or their unearned income exceeds $950.
Other Filing Requirements
There are several other situations in which you must file a tax return even if you have no income. For example, you may owe a penalty for the early withdrawal of retirement funds, or you may have to repay part of the first-time home buyer credit after selling your home. Other reasons include taking a distribution from a health or medical savings account or to pay Medicare and Social Security taxes on tip income that you did not report to your employer. Also, if you made at least $108.28 working for a church or tax-exempt church organization, you must file. (see ref 1, page 5)
Reasons to File
Even if you don't have to file a tax return, you may want to do it anyway. If you had income-tax withholding taken from any of your checks, you can get the money refunded. Also, you may qualify for a refund by claiming credits such as the earned income credit, the additional child tax credit and the American Opportunity education credit.
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