If you made less than $10,000 in a year, you often will not be required to file a federal income tax return unless you meet special qualifications. However, if you're due a refund or can claim any credits or deductions, you may want to do so to get money back from the IRS.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
If you made $10,000 or less, you generally won't be required to file a federal tax return, but if you paid any taxes, you may still want to do so to get a refund from the government.
Whether to File Taxes Under $10,000
Generally speaking, if your earnings are less than the IRS standard deduction plus personal exemption amounts for a certain year, you don't owe tax, since effectively all of your income is automatically deductible. You're also not required to file a return.
These amounts vary from year to year and are based on your age and whether you're single, married filing jointly or some other status, and starting in tax year 2018, the personal exemption is going away while the standard deduction rises. But either way, $10,000 in income is not by itself enough to trigger the requirement to file a tax return.
Even if you're not required to file a return, though, you may want to do so. If you have worked a job where taxes were withheld from your paycheck, it's usually a good idea to file to get that money refunded. Additionally, if you're eligible for a tax credit, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit for working people, you may get more money back. If you paid taxes, the answer to "Will I get a tax refund if I made less than $10,000?" is generally yes.
If you make under $66,000, you can generally file your return for free using a variety of free online tools. You can also find a variety of tools that will let you estimate how much you owe in tax or how much you will get back, regardless of your income. You can use these tools to roughly answer questions like "If I made $12,000, how much will my tax return be?" before having to complete a whole set of tax forms.
Exceptions That May Require Filing
In some cases, even if you made less than the normal filing requirement, you may still be required to file taxes under $10,000. For example, if you had self-employment net income of $400 or more, owe Social Security or Medicare tax on your income from tips or received distributions from a health savings account, you are generally required to file.
If you live or work in a state that has income tax, there may be separate rules for when you're required to file and pay state or local tax. It may also be a good idea to file state tax even if you're not required in order to collect a refund.
2018 Filing Limits
Starting in 2018, personal exemptions no longer apply, and the standard deduction is $12,000 for single people, $18,000 for head of household and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly. Generally, if you made below these thresholds, you won't have to file unless special circumstances apply.
Higher limits generally apply for people 65 and older and people who are blind, and lower limits apply if you can be claimed as someone's dependent.
2017 Filing Limits
For 2017 and earlier tax years, the minimum threshold to file is based on the standard deduction plus the personal exemption. For single people in 2017, that's $10,400. For head of household, it's $13,400, and for married couples filing jointly, it's $20,800.
Again, higher limits generally apply for people 65 and older and people who are blind, and lower limits apply if you can be claimed as someone's dependent.
- efile.com: Do You Need to – or Want To – File a 2017 Tax Return?
- Forbes: Do You Need To File A Tax Return In 2018?
- Forbes: New: IRS Announces 2018 Tax Rates, Standard Deductions, Exemption Amounts And More
- IRS: Do I Need to File a Tax Return?
- IRS: Free File: Do Your Federal Taxes for Free
- IRS: Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
- SmartAsset: Federal Income Tax Calculator
Steven Melendez is an independent journalist with a background in technology and business. He has written for a variety of business publications including Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal, Innovation Leader and Ad Age. He was awarded the Knight Foundation scholarship to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.