How Much Do You Need to Make to File Taxes?

There’s actually no minimum amount you have to make to file a tax return. Sometimes people file just because they can get money back. But the IRS does have rules that state how much you can make before you have to file taxes. Depending on your situation, the minimum that applies to you can be anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Getting Money Back

Even when you don’t make any money for an entire year, there are times you’ll want to file a tax return. For example, you might be eligible for a tax credit such as the American Opportunity Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit. If you worked, but didn’t make enough to have to file, chances are your employer withheld income taxes from your paychecks. You may be entitled to a refund, but you need to file taxes to get it.

Minimum Income

When your gross income reaches a minimum amount, the IRS says you have to file taxes. The minimum income that applies to you depends on your filing status. If you are single, the minimum for 2012 was $9,750. For a married couple filing a joint return it was $19,500. If you were married and filed a separate return, the 2012 minimum was $3,800. Dependents have to file a tax return when they have $950 in unearned income or $5,950 in total income. IRS minimum income filing requirements are adjusted each year, so check IRS Publication 17 for current figures.


If you are unemployed, you may still have to file a tax return. This is because unemployment benefits are considered taxable income by the IRS. You have to report your unemployment benefits along with any other income and pay taxes on the benefits you receive. To avoid a big tax bill when you file taxes, you can ask your state unemployment agency to withhold taxes from your benefit checks.

Other Reasons to File

There are some other situations in which you are required to file taxes. If you have $400 or more from self-employment or $108.28 from church employment, you must file a tax return. Filing is mandatory when you owe uncollected Social Security tax, Medicare tax, or other unpaid amounts to the IRS. You also have to file a tax return to report taxable distributions from tax-deferred investment plans like IRAs or Coverdell Educational Savings Accounts.

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About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, W D Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about business, personal finance and careers. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.