Do I Have to File Taxes if I Only Made $1,000?

Sometimes you have to file a tax return even though you didn't make much money.
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Preparing and filing your tax return is a chore, but it’s necessary to figure out how much you owe the Internal Revenue Service or if you get a refund. If you only make $1,000 in a year, there’s a pretty good chance you don’t have to file. Don’t assume that’s the case, though. There are some situations in which you have to file even if you made a lot less than $1,000.

Gross Income

When your gross income is less than the IRS minimum for your filing status, you aren't required to file a return based on that income. For single taxpayers, the minimum as of 2012 was $9,750. If you are married and file jointly, you may need to file even though the minimum for this filing status is $19,500. That’s because your spouse might make enough to require filing a tax return and you're supposed to include your income on a joint tax return -- even if it’s only $1,000. When you are claimed as a dependent, you can still earn up to $5,950 without having to file, with one exception: If you have unearned income such as interest on savings of $950 or more, you have to file, even if that’s all you made for the year.


Self-employment income of $400 or more has to be reported to the IRS, so if that’s the source of your earnings you must file a return even if you only made only that much. Self-employment income is any profit you earn from running a trade or business as a sole proprietor or partner. Earnings as an independent contractor or any other activity that involves being in business for yourself count as self-employment income.

Other Reasons

You must file a tax return if you have earnings of a minimum of $108.28 from working for a church. You’ll also have to file if you owe any uncollected Social Security tax, Medicare tax or alternative minimum tax from a prior year. Distributions from tax-advantaged plans such as IRAs have to be reported even when you don’t make any money for the year. Finally, you are required to file if you received too much in a previous year for certain items like tax credits and must return some of the money.

Filing for Refunds

Even if none of the IRS rules require you to file a tax return, you may want to do so. One good reason is if an employer withheld income tax from your paycheck. You probably are due a refund of that money, but you have to file a return to get it. It’s also possible you are entitled to money from one or more tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax credit, Additional Child Tax Credit or American Opportunity Tax Credit. Again, you have to file a return to get this money.

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