Just because you don't owe any Massachusetts income tax doesn't mean you're off the hook for filing a return. The threshold for how much income you need to have before Massachusetts requires you to file a return depends your status as a resident, part-year resident or non-resident.
Massachusetts Full-Year Residents
As of the 2013 tax year, you're required to file a Massachusetts income tax return if you're a resident of the state and your Massachusetts gross income exceeds $8,000, regardless of how much or how little income tax you actually owe. Your Massachusetts gross income equals your federal gross income with a few adjustments. For example, interest on bonds issued by other states doesn't count toward your federal gross income, but does count toward your Massachusetts gross income.
If you only lived in Massachusetts for part of the year, you're required to file a Massachusetts tax return if the income you earned during the time you lived in the state exceeds $8,000 as of the 2013 tax filing year. For example, say you moved to Massachusetts in October. If you earned $7,500 over the rest of the year, you're off the hook because you earned less than $8,000 while a resident of the state.
If you're not a resident of Massachusetts, you may still be required to file a Massachusetts return if your income from Massachusetts sources exceeds the smaller of $8,000 or your prorated personal exemption. As of the 2013 tax year, your personal exemption equals $4,400 if you're single or $8,800 if you're married filing jointly. To figure your prorated exemption, multiply your exemption by the percentage of your income from Massachusetts sources. For example, if you have 60 percent of your income from Massachusetts sources and you're single, your prorated exemption is only $2,640.
If you've tied the knot, you still figure whether you're required to file a Massachusetts income tax return based on your income, not your combined income. For example, suppose you and your spouse lived in Massachusetts year-round. If you have $7,000 of income and your spouse has $7,000, neither of you is required to file a return. But if you have $9,000 and your spouse has $1,000, you're required to file, but your spouse isn't. Of course, you can still file a joint return to satisfy your filing obligations.
Mark Kennan is a writer based in the Kansas City area, specializing in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."