As you get started in your working career, it is very important to know whether you should file an income tax return. Not everyone who earns money is required to file a return. The Internal Revenue Service has set out several different criteria to determine whether you need to file. Your level of income is just one of the items covered by the filing rules.
Income Reporting Levels
If you earn above a certain amount of income during the year, you are required by IRS rules to file an income tax return. At the time of publication, if you are married and filing jointly and you both are under age 65, the income threshold for filing is $19,000. If you earn more, you must file an income tax return. If your filing status is single, the income threshold is $9,500. If you are filing as head of household, the threshold is $12,200.
Employed Earning Wages
If your earnings are from a job where your employer withholds money from your paycheck, you may have to file an income tax return even if your earnings are below the income threshold for filing. Look at a recent pay stub and determine if your employer has withheld any federal income tax from your wages. To receive a refund of the taxes withheld you must file a tax return. The Form W-2 from your employer also will show if you had federal income taxes withheld from your wages.
Tax Credit Potential
If your income is at a level where you are not required to file a tax return and you do not have taxes withheld from your pay check, you still may want to file a return to receive money back from the IRS. As of the date of publication, seven programs provide tax credits to individuals who meet certain criteria. Several of the credits are refundable credits, meaning the government will pay you money if you do not pay income taxes and qualify for the credit.
You may want to file a federal income tax return to receive a refund on any state income taxes withheld from your wages. State tax return completion is often based on the numbers from a federal income tax return. If you are working at a regular, wage-paying job it makes sense to file taxes every year just to have a record of filing and to receive any credits you may be due but not aware of. If you work as a self-employed individual, the IRS rules require the filing of a tax return if you earn more than $400 during the year.
Tim Plaehn has been writing financial, investment and trading articles and blogs since 2007. His work has appeared online at Seeking Alpha, Marketwatch.com and various other websites. Plaehn has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the U.S. Air Force Academy.